Art Collecting: The MOCA’s First Thirty Years

Rineke Dijkstra, Stephany, Saint Joseph Ballet, Orange County, California USA, March 22, 2003

I pity the permanent collection in the age of the blockbuster. While art museums are often rated by the quality of their permanent collections, too often it is the temporary exhibits that stir excitement and draw crowds. A work of art that is barely noticed while on permanent display is suddenly lionized in a short-term exhibition. The MOCA’s First Thirty Years is a quest by museum curators to divert attention away from the blockbuster and instead direct the art lovers’ attention towards the collection and all of its treasures. The collection displayed here creates a visual timeline; a master narrative of art from 1945 – 2009, highlighting some of the most influential artists associated with contemporary art practices.

Contemporary art collections are not static, so why present them statically?  When artworks are always in the same place in a gallery, the public gets comfortable and tends not to return to it, thinking that they have already seen it. By the MOCA bringing their collection out of storage and creating a temporary exhibition, it encourages visitors to come more than once, because with each visit, the work is viewed differently allowing for renewed meaning.  It surprises and confronts the visitor.  As with any temporary show, the idea is to create an event. Yet, unlike blockbuster exhibitions that display many works on loan from other institutions, here everything is from the galleries own collection, reminding us of how little we know and see of the collection.

Rearranging the collection into temporary exhibitions seems appropriate for contemporary art, where history is still fluid and contemporary art museums have yet to become pantheons of unchallenged masters, flexibility seems advisable. However, the method of re-arranging a museums collection into exhibitions is not always advisable, especially with collections of classical art in renowned art institutes, the Louvre, the Hermitage, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Visitors flock to these institutes with the expectation that the Venus de Milo, the Rosetta Stone, or the Mona Lisa will be in its rightful place, secure within the museum’s permanent display of their collection.

Museums such as the MOCA, are trendsetters in the Contemporary Art world, the art world looks them, to see what is happening now and coming next in art. In this sense, it is advisable that the MOCA keep changing their exhibits, keeping a great deal of their exhibition space free to filled with the most exciting and relevant contemporary art, to demonstrate that Contemporary Art History is in a constant state of flux.  Below, I have highlighted some of my favorite artworks. I would like to know if you have any favorites!

Nan Goldin, Nan after being battered, 1984

Thomas Hirschhorn, Non-Lieux, 2002

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (it’s a small world but not if you have to clean it) 1990

Charles Ray, No, 1991

Christopher Wool, Untitled, 1990

Christopher Wool, Untitled, 1990

My list could keep going…

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