When the Museum of Modern Art unveiled a new vision for its gallery this week, many of its plans were familiar: As the museum completes a $400 million renovation plan that entails closing from June 15 to October 21, it is ramping up for a more diverse presentation of artists in its permanent collection, with revisions expected every 18 months. At a press breakfast at the museum, curators presented specifics of that plan that included a greater presence for film.
When visitors walk into the first gallery on the fifth floor after the reopening, alongside stalwarts of the permanent exhibition like Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” they will also encounter early cinema. “Interior New Subway,” a five-minute document of New York’s newly launched subway system from 1905, will screen on a loop. The so-called “actualité,” a term used to refer to porto-documentaries shot during the first two decades of the medium’s existence, tracks one train traveling from 14th Street to 42nd Street through a camera mounted on another camera behind it.
“Perhaps modernism didn’t start with painting,” Rajendra Roy, MoMA’s Chief Curator of Film, said at the event. “This is our way of propelling you into the moment that modernity was kindled through immigration, migration, technology, and the confluence of those things.”
The permanent collection’s film on display will also reflect the broader move toward presenting the diversity of the museum collection with the “Lime Kiln Club Field Day,” a collection of footage from an unfinished feature showcasing the work of the black Vaudeville entertainer Bert Williams from 1913. “As we start to unveil more about our collection in our galleries, you will start to see more and more moving images alongside architecture, design, painting and sculpture — all of the artforms that MoMA has championed,” Roy said. The museum is expected to circulate the selections from the permanent collection every 18 months.
In addition to these plans, the museum revealed plans for a new screening series to accompany the reopening, “Private Lives, Public Spaces,” the first large-scale exhibition of home movies in its collection. The series is expected to include glimpses of family life from a range of diverse backgrounds.
Additionally, it will salute the legacy of founding MoMA curator Iris Barry by resurrecting her founding program, “A Short Survey of the Film in America,” which was launched shortly after the establishment of the MoMA Film Library (now known as the Department of Film) in 1935.
The museum is expected to unveil more of its programming in the fall with a focus on its permanent collection, including many films made outside the Hollywood studio system, as well as feminist and queer experiences on film. The museum also announced the first year of programs for the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio, which will showcase live and experimental programs, including many with filmed components. These include Azuchi Gulliver’s “Cinematic Illuminations” and two new series, “Studio Now” and “Studio Space.”