Modern Artifacts 16: The Living Garden


“One of the liveliest and most controversial events in the Garden’s history happened without the Museum’s blessing. In 1969, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama staged an unauthorized Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead, or “nude-in,” which consisted of a group of naked performers, directed by Kusama herself, cavorting and pantomiming carnal acts in one of its fountains.”—Michelle Elligott

This latest installment in our long-running series produced in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art features a number of previously unpublished photographs and other documents related to 60 years’ worth of events, installations, concerts, and performances—from jazz concerts to self-destructing sculptures—in MoMA’s iconic Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden.

Michelle Elligott is Chief of Archives, Library, and Research Collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Museum Studies at New York University. Her award-winning publications include Modern Artifacts (2020), René d’Harnoncourt and the Art of Installation (2018), and Art in Our Time: A Chronicle of the Museum of Modern Art (2004). Elligott was a Center for Curatorial Leadership International Fellow in 2016 and a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece, in 2005. She holds a B.A. from Smith College and an M.A. from Hunter College, CUNY, both in Art History.