Have you ever wondered why certain things end up behind the glass walls of a vitrine in an art museum, while others end up on the shelf of a souvenir store? 

Last week, as part of the Roving Gallery Conversation series, museum educators Marianne Eggler and Deborah A. Goldberg invited visitors to consider this question in MoMA’s Contemporary Galleries by stationing themselves next to two works from MoMA’s collection, Katharina Fritsch’s multiiple Madonnenfigur (Maddona Figure) (1982), and presenting another one of these figures, from the educator’s own collection, for visitors to touch. 

The educators framed the conversation with the prompt “let’s talk about originality and appropriation,” and the conversations that ensued explored the ways that Fritsch references “cheap souvenir figurines sold near church pilgrimage sites in Germany and France” in both the work’s content and its production as an unlimited edition. The fact  that visitors could hold an artwork while having the conversation brought the question to light and emphasized the ways that the bounds between art and product can become deliberately blurred based on an artist’s choices.

This topic takes on another dimension in light of the last picture above, of Fritsch’s work Figurengruppe (2006-08) in MoMA’s Sculpture Garden, which includes the same Madonna figure in a different scale and context. What do you think: does the size of the figure impact its status or originality of it as an artwork?

Look out for MoMA’s educators roving in the galleries on your next visit! 

— Alison Burstein, 12-Month Intern, Adult & Academic Programs

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