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Museum of Modern Art New York the History and the Collection
by Sam Hunter
Publisher: H.N. Abrams in association with the Museum of Modern Art, New York 1984
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To choose 1,000 works to represent a museum whose total collection exceeds 100,000--now that's curating. Imagine the restraint required to compile a catalog of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York--the first museum exclusively dedicated to art of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the first to recognize modern-art disciplines (photography, film, industrial design, installation). The collection is carefully and tastefully represented in this 600-page tome. Multiple frontispieces representing each of the museum's departments welcome the reader, followed by a thorough and illustrated introduction to the museum's directors, exhibitions, donors, acquisitions, and architecture. Then comes the good stuff: 1,000 works from the museum's six curatorial departments: Painting and Sculpture, Drawings, Prints and Illustrated Books, Architecture and Design, Photography, and Film and Video, each section introduced by an essay explaining the development of the particular collection. Clear, large, color illustrations of Cezanne's The Bather, Munch's Madonna, Wyeth's Christina's World, and sculpture by Oldenburg, Serra, Morris, and Beuys leave a reader gasping, "They have that?" First published in 1984, the book was reprinted in 1997 by Abradale, Abrams's more affordable imprint. While the huge catalog is now less expensive, keep in mind that its content has not been revised since its first edition. Regardless, it's a valuable testament to the quality and scope of one of the world's greatest art collections. It's hard not to want to see all of the works that didn't make it into the catalog.

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