Painting and sculpture from the Museum of Modern Art: catalog of deaccessions, 1929 through 1998, Michael Asher

Michael Asher, Painting and sculpture from the Museum of Modern Art: catalog of deaccessions, 1929 through 1998 [Pintura e escultura do Museu de Arte Moderna: catálogo de desacessões, de 1929 a 1998], obra integrada na exposição Museum As Muse, MoMA, Nova Iorque, 1999

Specific Object

  • artists’ book
  • wrappers
  • offset-printed
  • staple bound
  • black-and-white & color
  • 28 x 21.5 cm.
  • 15 pp.
  • edition size unknown
  • unsigned and unnumbered

» His contribution to the ‘The Museum as Muse: Artists Reflect’ exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1999 consisted of a pamphlet featuring a published list of the 403 art objects deaccessioned (sold or traded) by the museum since its founding. Judging from the institution’s damning response, Asher’s purely documentary piece disturbed myths of the finality and closure espoused by the museum, as well as the notion that profit from the sale of its holdings is extrinsic to such institutions. It also revealed that deaccession over time plays a greater role than previously thought in shaping the artistic canons constructed by museums. »  Alexander Alberro, Sculpture Palimpsests: Michael Asher in Münster (2017)

Painting and Sculpture from The Museum of Modern Art:
Catalog of Deaccessions 1929 through 1998 is my
contribution to the group exhibition The Museum as Muse:
Artists Reflect at The Museum of Modem Art, New York,
from March 14 to June 1, 1999. It is a listing of 403 artworks
sold or exchanged for new acquisitions. The list of artworks
deaccessioned from The Museum of Modem Art collection
was compiled from collection files and object cards in the
Department of Registration and the Department of Painting
and Sculpture and represent all deaccessions of painting and
sculpture known from cross-referencing the existing records.
The Museum of Modem Art has published its holdings of
painting and sculpture in Painting and Sculpture in The
Museum of Modern Art, 1929-1967, which was followed by
a companion catalog, Painting and Sculpture in The Museum
of Modern Art, with Selected Works on Paper: Catalog of the
Collection, January 1, 1977, which included those works
acquired between 1967 and 1977. Likewise, two more
catalogs were produced: Painting and Sculpture in The
Museum of Modern Art, with Selected Works on Paper:
Catalog of the Collection, to January 1988, and Works of Art
Acquired by the Department of Painting and Sculpture since
January 1988 (unpublished supplement January 1997), which
together contain a complete listing of the holdings of painting
and sculpture for the subsequent twenty years.
The 1977 companion catalog was used as a model for the
format and arrangement of this project. The information in
this deaccession catalogue includes artists’ names, titles of
works, dimensions, and accession numbers. The catalog is
arranged alphabetically by artist and chronologically for
works of each artist. Dimensions are given in feet and inches,
with height preceding width, and followed by depth. The
second part of each accession number designates the year an
artwork was acquired, while the part before the decimal point
indicates its place in the sequence of acquisitions that year.
I wish to thank Kynaston McShine for inviting me to
participate in The Museum as Muse: Artists Reflect. I also
wish to thank all those on the museum staff as well as interns
who have helped make this catalog possible. Among those
who assisted were Mary Kiplock, intern, who crossreferenced
the original files to assemble the greater part of
these listings; Wendell Hafner, Administrative Assistant;
Mattias Herold, Executive Secretary; the staff of the
Department of Painting and Sculpture, where the list
circulated for any additions or deletions; Jasmine Moorhead,
editor; Gina Rossi, designer; and Christina Grillo, who
produced the publication. In particular I would like to thank
Lilian Tone, for coordinating this project and whose support
was most vital for its realization.
Michael Asher

https://www.moma.org/d/c/exhibition_catalogues/W1siZiIsIjMwMDA5OTYwMiJdLFsicCIsImVuY292ZXIiLCJ3d3cubW9tYS5vcmcvY2FsZW5kYXIvZXhoaWJpdGlvbnMvMTg1IiwiaHR0cHM6Ly93d3cubW9tYS5vcmcvY2FsZW5kYXIvZXhoaWJpdGlvbnMvMTg1P2xvY2FsZT1lbiIsImkiXV0.pdf?sha=03746bad2fc3428a

Artists’ book published as Michael Asher’s contribution to the exhibition “Museum as Muse” held at The Museum of Modern Art, March 14-June 1, 1999. “Asher’s contribution [to the the exhibition ‘Museum as Muse,’ Museum of Modern Art, New York] is a shiny red catalog entitled ‘Painting and Sculpture from The Museum of Modern Art: Catalog of Deaccessions 1929 through 1998 by Michael Asher.’ As its title indicates, Asher’s catalog lists all the sold or exchanged works from MoMA’s Department of Painting and Sculpture according to MoMA’s records. Asher states in his introduction that the information was primarily compiled by a MoMA intern and circulated among MoMA’s staff for fact-checking. Despite these institutional-sounding procedures, distinguishable conflicts of interest between the artist and the institution emerge. In a disclaimer printed in Asher’s catalog, MoMA’s Chief Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture, Kirk Varnedoe, cautions the museum visitor against attributing accuracy or comprehensiveness to the information therein. According to Varnedoe, Asher’s listing should be considered unreliable since ‘we have not been able to assure ourselves that the present list meets the criteria of completeness or accuracy we would require in a museum publication.’

By contrasting a museum publication with an artist’s publication, even one produced with the museum’s own resources, Varnedoe hastens to overdetermine the separation of the artist’s interests from those of the institution. In addition to investigating MoMA’s archival erasure (the files do not list the dates of deaccessions), Asher’s project analyzes the distribution and contestation of institutional authority. Varnedoe’s note expressing caution about the reliability of the project is the very element that enables Asher’s work to speak to its audience from an invested, yet discernible point of view.”

— from “Scenes from a museum – various photographers, Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA; Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY” in Afterimage, July-August, 1999 by Kirsi Peltomaki.

Michael Asher (Los Angeles, EUA, 1943 – Los Angeles, EUA, 2012) artista…

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