California artist John Baldessari once wrote a story that began as follows: “A young artist in art school used to worship the paintings ofCezanne. He looked at and studied all the books he could find onCezanne and copied all of the reproductions of Cezanne's work he found in the books." Baldessari titled this story "The Best Way to Do Art." Last night, the Museum of Modern Art opened a new exhibition, "The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today," that shares the spirit of that whimsical text, showing photographs of sculptures.
Blessed by an evening that was slightly cooler than most have been recently, MoMA welcomed a tony crowd that quickly spilled into its sculpture garden, sipping drinks and silently praying that venerable NewYork Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who was present in a bright blue shirt, would snap their photo for his weekend column. Meanwhile, George Rickeys towering "Two Lines" sculpture swayed in the wind, helped on by a few guests who grabbed the metal poles, setting the work in motion.
Guests took a while to make their way to the exhibition on the sixth floor, preferring to sip cocktails in the garden for a while. Eventually, perhaps hearing news of how excellent the show upstairs — curated by Roxana Marcoci — was, they persuaded themselves to climb the stairs, viewing the show amid artists Lee Mingwei, Jan De Cock (fresh from a run-in with the air police), An-My Lê, Nate Lowman, Dennis Oppenheim, Lorraine O’Grady, and CyprienGaillard. MoMA luminaries were also on hand, like director Glenn Lowry, philanthropists Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis, president emerita Agnes Gund, and Robert Storr, returning to the palace he once ruled as painting and sculpture curator.
The accomplished guests aside, the evening’s greatest star may have beenMarcel Duchamps deluxe-edition "Boîte-en-valise" (1935-41), given a choice spot in "Original Copy" and containing 68 productions of its makers works, complete with a single original, a drawing of part of his "Large Glass" (1915-23), perhaps the weirdest piece of art produced over the entire 20th century.
Click the photo gallery at left to see images from the opening of "The Original Copy."