MoMA Partnership Buys Nauman Venice Work

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Bruce Nauman, renegade and elder statesman, checks the decibel levels of Giorni at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Museum of Modern Art board has voted to buy Bruce Nauman's Days in partnership with MoMA trustee Maja Oeri, who is buying the other half on behalf of the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation, the Times reports today.

The Times article erroneously suggests that Days is a video piece, and neglects to say where it currently resides. But in fact, it is an audio sculpture (no video is involved), and you can hear it through April at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This is one of two new Naumans unveiled at the U.S. Pavilion of the Venice Biennale. Days was already under development when Nauman and the Philadelphia Museum of Art won the Venice commission from the U.S. State Dept., and the artist then created a companion piece, Giorni, in Italian.

Both works surround the visitor with taped voices reading the days of the week. They occupy large spaces at the PMA, and provide an unexpected experience for listeners.

Apparently the piece made an impression on Ann Temkin, the former Philadelphia Museum of Art curator who is now at MoMA. I spoke to Temkin in Venice, and she was effusive about the show. The New York museum is strong on Naumans, but has mostly early works.

“We felt it was important to continue the Nauman story into the present,” Temkin told the Times.

It's too bad she beat the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the purchase of a work with which the PMA has such a strong history. No Nauman purchase is currently underway, a museum official said.

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