53,000 Prints at the MoMA

Prints have been an integral part of the Museum of Modern Art since its inception in 1929, with eight prints being among the very first works to enter the collection. Today, the department’s holdings have grown to include more than 53,000 works dating from the 1880s to the present, forming the most comprehensive collection of modern and contemporary prints and illustrated books in the world. While traditional techniques such as woodcut, etching, lithography, and screenprint form the core of the collection, newer digital processes, multiples, and artist’s books are also collected in breadth and depth. The important role of printmaking in artists’ creative process is reflected in the inclusion of numerous states and working proofs, comprising one of the unique strengths of the collection.

Their current exhibition, Abstraction: Now in Print, focuses on the print medium, highlighting ways in which printmaking’s inherent processes, such as layering, transfer, and reproducibility, have been particularly fertile terrain for experimentation with abstraction. The term “generation” in the title refers not only to the artists featured in the show—many of whom emerged in the first years of the twenty-first century—but also to their methods of producing abstraction, often through digital technologies, the appropriation of existing source material, or the exploration of endless permutations of form. Earlier works by John Armleder, Sherrie Levine, and Stephen Prina—important points of influence from the late 1980s and early 1990s—punctuate the galleries. Featuring projects drawn exclusively from the Museum’s collection of prints and illustrated books, and complemented by a selection of artists’ books from the MoMA Library’s collection, this exhibition presents numerous recent acquisitions for the first time, in a focused look at the many forms abstraction takes now. Artists include Cory Arcangel, Tauba Auerbach, Ryan Gander, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Jorge Pardo, Cheyney Thompson, Charline von Heyl.

Throughout the years the MoMA has been host to a number of impressive print related exhibitions including Wait, Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth; Louise Bourgeois: The Complete Prints & Books; New to the Print Collection: Matisse to Bourgeois; Print/Out, Thing/Thought: Fluxus Editions, 1962–1978; Picasso: Themes and Variations; and William Kentridge: Five Themes, In & Out of Amsterdam.

If you are a student or researcher be sure to stop by their Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Print Room where more than 40,000 prints from the Museum’s collection, as well as a library of print-related books, catalogs (including catalogue raisonnés), and periodicals, are accessible by appointment only.

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