The Modern Procession, NYC June 23rd 2002, 2002
Dry point and collage on paper
54.5 x 73.5 cm (21 1/2 x 28 7/8 inch)
Ed. of 60

On Sunday 26 June 2002, 'The Modern Procession' announced the temporary move of the Museum of Modern Art from Manhattan to Queens. In the form of a traditional ritual procession, a selection of MoMA's masterpieces were carried on palanquins. A Peruvian brass band set the pace of the journey, rose petals were strewn along the way and fireworks soared from street corners to celebrate the entry of MoMA's collection into the periphery.
To intervene in the temporary relocation of the Museum of Modern Art of New York with a procession of 'masterworks' through the streets involved a questioning of the 'consecrated' status of art in modernity. Inspired by the Catholic processions Alÿs watched in Tepoztlán, a town south of Mexico City, the action tested the concept of the Museum as a warehouse of treasures, in opposition to the social use of images that precedes and transcends the aesthetic paradigm of Western modernity. Prevented by MoMA's conservation and insurance rules from using its actual holdings, the "Modern Procession's" recourse to replicas echoed a long tradition in which the sacred originals, paintings or statues, are represented in processional practices by replicas sometimes described as 'hermanitos' (little siblings) or 'ambassadors'. The selection of artefacts responded to a broad reading of the collection. If Picasso's "Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907) and Duchamp's "Bicycle Wheel" (1913) are notorious turning points in the narrative of 'the modern', Alÿs's choice of an elongated figure by Giacometti emphasised both the relation to the fetish value of the standing figure, and the pursuit of modern consolation. Finally, to parade NYC artist Kiki Smith as a 'contemporary icon' made a pointed link between the star system and the relatively small number of woman artists in MoMA's collection.

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