Modern Artifacts 17: Modern Renaissance

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“The show, originally assembled for the 1939 San Francisco World’s Fair and subsequently exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago before heading to MoMA, was no small affair. It featured 10 tons of art insured for $21 million (the equivalent of $360 million today)—the Botticelli alone clocked in at 6,700 pounds and was valued at $4 million. Given the staggering value of the work involved, significant security measures were employed. Armed guards and a fire guard accompanied the objects on the trip from Chicago to New York, along with two Italian art handlers who checked the climate-controlled baggage car hourly. The frames were packed separately, and each painting was glazed with bulletproof glass.”—Michelle Elligott 

For this latest iteration of our long-running series with The Museum of Modern Art Archives, Chief of Archives Michelle Elligott presents a range of materials—including a removable insert reproduced in facsimile—related to MoMA’s 1940 exhibition Italian Masters.

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.