MoMA acquires the @ symbol. NYT:
No one knows for sure when it first appeared. One suggestion is that it dates to the sixth or seventh century when it was adopted as an abbreviation of “ad,” the Latin word for “at” or “toward.” (The scribes of the day are said to have saved time by merging two letters and curling the stroke of the “d” around the “a.”) Another theory is that it was introduced in 16th-century Venice as shorthand for the “amphora,” a measuring device used by local tradesmen.
Whatever its origins, the @ appeared on the keyboard of the first typewriter, the American Underwood, in 1885 and was used, mostly in accounting documents, as shorthand for “at the rate of.” It remained an obscure keyboard character until 1971 when an American programmer, Raymond Tomlinson, added it to the address of the first e-mail message to be sent from one computer to another.
It was acquired formless—purely as a concept—and from the public domain:
[…] “MoMA’s collection has always been in touch with its time,” Ms. Antonelli said, “and design these days is often an act with aesthetic and ethical consequences, not necessarily a physical object.”
That’s why MoMA decided against adding a specific version of the @ to the collection in favor of using it in different typographic styles and sizes. Ms. Antonelli likens it to the museum’s acquisition of “The Kiss,” a performance art piece by Tino Sehgal, in which a couple embrace for several hours. Just like the @, each performance can take a different form with new protagonists — though there is a difference. MoMA reportedly paid $70,000 for “The Kiss,” while the @ is joining the collection free.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to get an advance look at the Guggenheim’s newest show, a project by Tino Seghal. While I don’t want to say too much about it — it’s something best experienced for yourself — I will say that it was remarkable and highly thought-provoking, a deceptively simple mix of walking, talking, and the Guggenheim’s remarkable architecture.
In advance of the show’s opening, the New York Times Magazine’s Arthur Lubow penned a profile of Seghal, a man whose life and art are intensely intertwined. I particularly enjoyed Lubow’s description of selling and staging one of Seghal’s works:
As far as money goes, at a museum-discount price of $70,000 it was a minor MoMA purchase; but [Director Glenn] Lowry was not overstating the cost of time and energy. Since there can be no written contract, the sale of a Sehgal piece must be conducted orally, with a lawyer or a notary public on hand to witness it. The work is described; the right to install it for an unspecified number of times under the supervision of Sehgal or one of his representatives is stipulated; and the price is stated. The buyer agrees to certain restrictions, perhaps the most important being the ban on future documentation, which extends to any subsequent transfers of ownership. “If the work gets resold, it has to be done in the same way it was acquired originally,’ says Jan Mot, who is Sehgal’s dealer in Brussels. ‘If it is not done according to the conditions of the first sale, one could debate whether it was an authentic sale. It’s like making a false Tino Sehgal, if you start making documentation and a certificate.”