Watch At the Museum, MoMA’s 8‑Part Documentary on What it Takes to Run a World-Class Museum

If you’ve ever vis­it­ed the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art — and prob­a­bly even if you haven’t — you’ll have a sense that the place does­n’t exact­ly run itself. As much or even more so than oth­er muse­ums, MoMA keeps the behind-the-scenes oper­a­tions behind the scenes, pre­sent­ing vis­i­tors with coher­ent art expe­ri­ences that seem to have mate­ri­al­ized whole. But that very puri­ty of pre­sen­ta­tion itself stokes our curios­i­ty: No, real­ly, how do they do it? Now, MoMA has offered us a chance to see for our­selves through a new series of short doc­u­men­taries called At the Muse­um, a look at and a lis­ten to the nuts and bolts of one of Amer­i­ca’s most­ly high­ly regard­ed art insti­tu­tions.

The series, which will run to eight episodes total, has released four thus far. In “Ship­ping & Receiv­ing,” some of the muse­um’s staff pre­pare 200 works of art in its col­lec­tion to ship to Paris for a spe­cial exhi­bi­tion at the Louis Vuit­ton Foun­da­tion while oth­ers get new shows installed at MoMA itself.

In “The Mak­ing of Max Ernst,” a cou­ple of cura­tors design a show of work by that sur­re­al­ist painter-sculp­tor-poet. In “Press­ing Mat­ters,” the open­ing of both the Ernst exhi­bi­tion, “Beyond Paint­ing,” and “Louise Bour­geois: An Unfold­ing Por­trait” fast approach, but sev­er­al impor­tant deci­sions remain to be made as well as works to be installed. In “Art Speaks,” MoMA staff and vis­i­tors take a step back and con­tem­plate the pur­pose of mod­ern art itself.

At the Muse­um could have assumed a high­ly tra­di­tion­al form, stop­ping method­i­cal­ly to wit­ness the dai­ly labors of every­one from MoMA’s direc­tors to cura­tors to installers to secu­ri­ty guards as nar­ra­tion earnest­ly explains to us their place in the art ecosys­tem. From the very first episode, how­ev­er, the series takes a dif­fer­ent and much more com­pelling tack, pro­vid­ing an uncom­ment­ed-upon series of fly-on-the-wall views of MoMA peo­ple at work, eaves­drop­ping on their con­ver­sa­tions, and occa­sion­al­ly weav­ing in their reflec­tions spo­ken direct­ly to the film­mak­ers. But just as the expe­ri­ence of MoMA changes with each new exhi­bi­tion, so does the form of At the Muse­um with each new episode, one of which will con­tin­ue appear­ing every Fri­day until Decem­ber 15th. Watch them all (here), and you’ll nev­er look at MoMA, or indeed any oth­er muse­um, in quite the same way.

At the Muse­um will be added to our col­lec­tion of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Browse Every Art Exhi­bi­tion Held at MoMA Since 1929 with the New “MoMA Exhi­bi­tion Spe­lunk­er”

The Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (MoMA) Puts Online 75,000 Works of Mod­ern Art

The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

Kids Record Audio Tours of NY’s Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (with Some Sil­ly Results)

Muse­um of Mod­ern Art (MoMA) Launch­es Free Course on Look­ing at Pho­tographs as Art

Free: The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art and the Guggen­heim Offer 474 Free Art Books Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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