Museum of Modern Art: Collection of the Museum of American Art

The tales of the Artisants

Once upon a time, far away in the East, there was a Great Nation proud of its rich culture and tradition which had flourished on the vast land for thousands of years. Being blessed with such a long history, the people of the land lived through many rich and happy years. They witnessed times of ascent and prosperity, but also times of stagnation and decline. After one such long period of uncertainty and poverty, signs of change and optimism could be seen everywhere. The new culture was starting to emerge, while unusual forms of art were appearing in many places. In the beginning, this new art, named “contemporary”, looked very strange, since its origins were in the West and it did not have much in common with the great masters from the past. Nevertheless, contemporary art was embraced by many young, adventurous artists who were attracted to the ideas of individuality and originality. For a few decades, this art flourished and could be seen in many new galleries that opened in all big cities of the land. However, after some time, people began to ask: “How could we have had contemporary art at all without art history? What is contemporary art without the memory of modern art? Where are our museums of modern art? Wasn’t it modern art that invented the ideas of uniqueness and originality?”

It is impossible to know what the answers to these questions would have been, if one day in the southern metropolis of the land known as the City of Flowers there hadn’t unexpectedly appeared a Museum of Modern Art. This was a most unusual museum, such as had never before been seen anywhere in the world. Indeed it had a magnificent collection of the most important works of modern art of all styles, arranged according to the famous diagram; from Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism to Abstraction, Suprematism, Constructivism... and even later, Dada and Surrealism.

As if all the masterpieces of modern art had by some force of magic been taken from the West and brought to the East, this Great Nation had suddenly become the owner of the entire Modern tradition. Yet it came as a great surprise and disappointment for everybody when it was realized that in fact none of the exhibited works were originals! Instead, they were all copies made by the local artists from the City of Flowers. Some learned people began to complain at once: “What kind of modern art is this? These are all worthless copies. How can we have modern art without the originals? We all know that the originals are in the great museum, far away in the West, called The Modern. That is the real museum of modern art, not this pathetic, newfangled imitation!”

What these wise men did not understand was that they were looking into the past, and it was only in the past that the originals were admired and valued, while copies were despised and considered to be worthless. They could not see into the future, since in the future they would see that it would be the copies that are valued and respected, while the originals are perceived to be simple and trivial. A copy of an original abstract painting will look just as abstract. But as a copy, such a painting will also be both realistic and representational. As time goes by, nobody knows how many new meanings a copy may acquire; how many new roles in how many different stories it may play.

That is why our Museum of Modern Art made of copies is not a museum of the past; it is rather a museum of the future. Moreover, by being both modern and non-modern at the same time, it will become the only true memory of modern art, the only true Museum of Modern Art in the entire world.

That is how it happened that this Great Nation unexpectedly, and for the first time, got not only its modern art, but at the same time the first Museum of Modern Art as well.

From TheTales of the Artisans

Image credits
Museum of American Art, Berlin and Times Museum, 
Guangzhou, 2011