MoMA's first ever exhibition catalogue

The Museum of Modern Art was founded in 1929 largely due to the efforts of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and two of her friends, Lillie P. Bliss and Mary Quinn Sullivan - a group known socially as the daring ladies.

The daring ladies - founders of MoMA

At the time, Europe was the centre for modern art and the daring ladies wanted a place that would be 'the greatest museum of modern art in the world' . They raised funds and rented modest quarters for the new museum on the 12th floor of the Heckscher Building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan. And so, under the leadership of the young scholar Alfred H. Barr, Jr., MoMA opened to the public on 7 November 1929, nine days after the Wall Street Crash.

MoMA's inaugural exhibition featured the work of European post-Impressionist artists, Cézanne, Gauguin, Seurat, and Van Gogh and ran for a a month from 7 November to 7 December, 1929. The show attracted more than 47,000 visitors and received rave reviews such as this one from the New York Times. 

MoMA's first exhibition 1929

MoMa first exhibition 1929

Although the museum was small and had no curatorial departments, MoMA produced a 157 page exhibition catalogue accompanying the show. 

MoMa's first exhibition catalogue 1929

Inside, it included a list of acknowledgements, a foreword written by Barr introducing the themes of the show and a section of full page black and white plates showing works included in the exhibition ( 28 by Van Gogh, 18 by Seurat, 19 by Gauguin and 35 by Cézanne).

Below are a few excerpts from the catalogue:

Excerpt from MoMA's first ever exhibition catalogue

MoMA first exhibition catalogue 1929

 Excerpt from MoMa's first ever exhibition catalogue

There are still a few copies of the first edition of the catalogue around (which we can try and source for you).  Alternatively, you can browse through a pdf copy of this important and historic catalogue here


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