The Art of War: MoMA Acquisitions 1940-1949
- What role, if any, did the MoMA play during the war effort?
- What did support of the war look like in terms of exhibitions and art acquisition?
- How did the war affect the habits and demographic of donors during this time?
Our final visualizations within this project answer these questions.
To provide context for the story of what was being bought by and gifted to the Museum of Modern Art during the second World War, we focused on the entire decade of the 40s rather than limiting search parameters to only the five-year-long conflict. Available acquisitions data was broken down in terms of gender, nationality, department, and credit line.
Focusing on a span of ten years with our eyes on gender, nationality, department, and credit line led us to envision what the Museum of Modern Art had in mind when it came to their exhibitions through records of acquisitions. Our research led us to determine that while during this time the MoMA broadened its horizons with gender, nationality, department, and credit line, the common denominators for that list remained the same. The institution valued American male drawings and prints provided by foundations before/during the war.
It is difficult to determine an entire institution’s set of values during a time of social upheaval, but examining the trends that exist within the MoMA acquisitions dataset allows for some conclusions to be drawn. As you move through the “galleries” in this project, you will find many interesting conclusions to be drawn. As you begin your visit, allow us to offer three:
- Male art dominated the scene. And while the rest of the data makes it seem unlikely, it seems there could have been a slight closing to the glaring artist gender gap in 1943. However, it appears the MoMA either did not have enough time, staff, or resources to classify demographics or they simply did not care about who artists were as the American war effort increased.
- The museum data makes clear that the MoMA was more interested in drawings and prints during the entire decade. That being said, photography and architecture/design get their due as the war plays out.
- While the MoMA relied heavily on donations (as opposed to purchases) before and during the war, purchases certainly did increase in frequency after it was over.
There is a power in curation, particularly during periods of social upheaval—something we know well having constructed this digital group project during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through our analysis, we have set out to represent ways the MoMA wielded that power in uncertain times.