Museum of Modern Art Receives Gift of 'Instruction Drawings'

Museum of Modern Art Receives Gift of 'Instruction Drawings'

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has announced a gift of eight hundred drawings from the Gilbert B. and Lila Silverman Instruction Drawing Collection.

The collection includes works by more than three hundred artists, including the likes of John Cage, Christo, Merce Cunningham, Walter de Maria, Yoko Ono, Adrian Piper, and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as a hundred and thirteen artists who will be represented at MoMA for the first time; they include Bill Bollinger, Sandra Binion, Georg Ettl, and graffiti artists RAMMELZEE and KASE2. The majority of the drawings date from the 1960s through the 1980s, which, according to MoMA officials, were critical decades for the dematerialization of art.

The gift highlights works that, according to the Silvermans, "bridge the gap between the flash of an idea and the completed artwork," providing insight into artistic production and the creative process. The Silvermans began collecting the drawings in the 1970s, and Gilbert Silverman came to define them as "being done for the initial process of a work to be made, actually or in the mind, rather than drawings made for the sake of being drawings" — a broad categorization that encompasses earlier works by Henry Moore and Piet Mondrian as well as twenty-first-century examples by Mark Dion and Olafur Eliasson. In some cases, the instruction drawing may be the only extant record of an ephemeral work or may document ideas for unrealized projects.  

The Gilbert B. and Lila Silverman Instruction Drawing Collection is the third major gift from the Silvermans to MoMA; in 2005 they donated the Avalanche Magazine Archives and the Gilbert B. and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection in 2009. 

"This collection raises fascinating questions for audiences and scholars alike, regarding issues such as the primacy of idea over process in art making, the legacy of ultimately unrealized or inherently ephemeral artworks, and the role of drawing today as paper becomes an increasingly uncommon repository for artists' thoughts," said Christophe Cherix, the Robert Lehman Chief Curator of Drawings and Prints at MoMA. "This singular group of works offers a unique journey into the minds of some of our greatest artists." 

(Yoko Ono. Painting for Three Stanzas. 1961. Ink on paper.)