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Edited with text by Tod Lippy. Text by Michelle Elligott. Contributions by Mary Ellen Carroll, Rhea Karam, Mary Lum, Clifford Owens, Michael Rakowitz, Paul Ramirez Jonas.
An LA Times 2020 holiday gift guide pick
A New York Times critics' pick | Best Art Books 2020
Modern Artifacts includes all 18 installments of the series, copresented with Esopus and the Museum of Modern Art Archives, that originally appeared in Esopus, the award-winning nonprofit arts annual that suspended publication in 2018.
Each of these installments focuses on a particular part of the MoMA Archives—subjects include the museum’s first guest book, its “Art Lending Service” program, activities in the museum’s garden, materials from the archives of contemporary artists such as James Lee Byars, Scott Burton and Grace Hartigan, and correspondence, photographs and other ephemera related to exhibitions such as the groundbreaking Spaces show in 1970 devoted to installation art.
The book, which features several removable inserts of archival materials printed in facsimile, also includes brand-new contributions commissioned from six contemporary artists—Mary Ellen Carroll, Rhea Karam, Mary Lum, Clifford Owens, Michael Rakowitz and Paul Ramirez Jonas—who have each created a project in the book inspired by a particular item or series of items in the MoMA Archives.
Featured image is reproduced from 'Modern Artifacts.'
PRAISE AND REVIEWS
A collection of the art journal’s lushly illustrated pages featuring ephemera and documents from the Museum of Modern Art’s archive with newly commissioned artists’ portfolios and essays.
[A]n incredible range of content—from art and artifacts to prose and music...It is a joy to hold and a beauty to have.
Los Angeles Times
As with rummaging around in a favorite old friend’s attic, unexpected treasures turn up from the deep archives of New York’s Museum of Modern Art in “Modern Artifacts” by Michelle Elligott and Tod Lippy. Whether it’s a 1967 letter from artist James Lee Byars to curator Dorothy Miller (“I regret not seeing you but to imagine you on vacation is a miracle”) to records of the museum’s 10th-anniversary festivities featuring President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Walt Disney and a dinner menu starring an alligator pear (a.k.a. an avocado), an eccentric cultural landscape unfurls in this elaborately designed book.
New York Times
In 2006 Tod Lippy, an artist and editor, invited Michelle Elligott, chief of the Museum of Modern Art’s fabled archives, to write a column on some aspect of its holdings for his just-founded magazine, Esopus. This she did for each of its 18 issues, until 2018. All are republished here, with actual-size reproductions of telegrams, photographs, carbon copies of letters (remember those?), newspaper clippings and an early V.I.P. guestbook. Foldout facsimiles include Alfred H. Barr Jr.’s sketches for his famous chart of modernist art movements. Mixed with these are new projects by six contemporary artists ... that illuminate additional aspects of the archive, revealing their contemporary implications.