There are browser extensions designed to increase your productivity every time you open a new tab.
We hereby announce that we’re switching our settings and allegiance to New Tab with MoMA.
If you can steal a few minutes, click whatever image comes up to explore the work in greater depth with a curator’s description, links to other works in the collection by the same artist, and in some cases installation views, interviews and/or audio segments.
Expect a few gift shop heavy hitters like Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, but also lesser known works not currently on view, like Yayoi Kusama’s Violet Obsession, a rowboat slipcovered in electric purple “phallic protrusions.”
Violet Obsession’s New Tab with MoMA link not only shows you how it was displayed in the 2010 exhibition Mind and Matter: Alternative Abstractions, 1940s to Now, you can also toggle around the installation view to explore other works in the same gallery.
You can hear audio of Kusama describing how she “encrusted” the boat in soft sculpture protuberances in her favorite pinkish-purple hue “to conquer my fear of sex:”
Boats can come and go limitlessly and move ahead on the water. The boat, having overcome my obsession would move on forever, carrying me onboard
My sofas, couches, dresses, and rowboats bristle with phalluses. … As an obsessional artist I fear everything I see. At one time, I dreaded everything I was making.
That’s a pretty robust art history lesson for the price of opening a new tab, though such deep dives can definitely come at the expense of productivity.
We weren’t expecting the 3-dimensional nature of some of the works our tabs yielded up.
Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy for a Prepared Piano, No.12008 by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla required a live musician to play Ode to Joy from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony upside down and backwards, from a hole carved into the center of a grand piano.
Frances Benjamin Johnston’s platinum print, Stairway of the Treasurer’s Residence: Students at Work from the Hampton Album 1899–1900, is perhaps more easily grasped if you can’t go too far down the rabbit hole with the artwork appearing in your new tab.
An excerpt from the 2019 publication, MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York provides a brief bio of both Johnston, “a professional photographer, noted for her portraits of Washington politicians and her images of coal miners, ironworkers, and women laborers in New England textile mills” and the Hampton Institute, Booker T Washington’s alma mater.
Bookmark such bite-sized cultural history breaks, and circle back when you have more time.
Speaking of which, allow us to leave you with this thought from artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, creator of 1991’s time-based installation Untitled (Perfect Lovers), a particularly conceptual offering from New Tab with MoMA:
Time is something that scares me. . . or used to. This piece I made with the two clocks was the scariest thing I have ever done. I wanted to face it. I wanted those two clocks right in front of me, ticking.