Moon Museum 1969 - Art and Space
In celebration of 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission landing on the Moon (20 July, 1969), Vasarely Museum in Budapest, one of the last institutions presenting a contemporary program in Hungary, presents an exhibition, Moon Museum 1969 (curated by Márton Orosz).
Not only are the canonical images of the landing and first steps of Neil Armstrong and later, the USA flag raising on the Moon by Apollo 12 commander Charlie Pete Conrad, but the exhibition of the artefacts from the Moon itself, are covered by Vasarely Museum show. The exhibition lays down a couple of phases preceding the space travel itself, starting with our general cultural reference to the Earth’s satellite, including prime mythological references to the Moon as our Otherness, but also madness, in a serial of traditional artworks. Among very interesting visual artefacts of the first rationalist research of the Moon, apart from maps of it, is also a Nineteenth Century stereoscope displaying double images of the full moon, by John William Draper. The Moon has become an important motif in Modernist art, especially in Surrealism and Dadaism and in Man Ray’s photographs. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s graphic works are also present. The mass cultural imagination of space travel of the era was also seen in films, such as those directed by George Melies, Richard Deutsch, Vasily Zhuravlyov and George Pal, sections of which are also present at the show.
The exhibition underlines the thesis that the Art and Technology Movement has been, if not a direct support to the space program, then at least a timely correlate to it. For example, Victor Vasarely’s interest in exploration of space started already in the mid-1950s. Many of the titles of his works carry the names of stars or constellations: Vega, Orion, Eridan, Neptun, Betelgeuse, Cassiopée… In his series CTA 102 he directly refers to radiation that is interpreted as a signal from the outer space intelligence, which the artist sets as a coded message to the audience. In addition, two works by a pioneer in art and space research, the artist and scientist Frank Malina, with his prophetic Away from the Earth (1966) and Passing Planets (1964) are also presented.
The main focus of the exhibition, still, falls on two shows in regard to the moon. One was set up on the Moon itself, where a miniature tile containing works by John Chamberlain, Forrest Myers, David Novros, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, was smuggled in order to be transferred as a message onto the Moon. This exhibition presented the first art in space. Then, in September 1969, The Moon Show, representing the materials gathered on the Moon, was held at MIT. The Vasarely Museum exhibition presents documentation on both. It also presents the second project on the Moon itself in1971 – The Fallen Astronaut by Paul Van Hoeydonck, a Belgian artist also previously occupied with the space theme, arranged at the same time as the Art on the Moon show. Hoeydonck casted a miniature aluminium sculpture of a human figure, representing the human race in general but also astronauts that lost their lives, (the names of eight American and six Russian cosmonauts losing their lives in attempt to reach the moon were carved on a plaque). In contrast to the first show, the second was legal, so President Nixon had to grant the permission for its transfer.
In addition to space shows and artworks announcing man’s landing on the moon, the gallery also shows the work Sky Art, by ZERO group from Dusseldorf (Otto Piene, Heinz Mack and Adolf Luther), as well as Nam June Paik and projects as Vassilakis Takis, who launched a beatnik Sinclair Beiles in the gallery in 1960. Besides the documentation on the show, and some artworks, the exhibition also features some documentary and support material such as the original, vintage editions of books, including Gyorgy Kepes’s The New Landscape in Art and Science, Buckminster Fuller’s Spaceship Earth and catalogues of Steward Brandt’s Whole Earth Catalogue.
Consisting mainly of the original documentary material surrounding the original material from the two Moon shows, in addition to some more artefacts as Vasarely’s and Malina’s works, as well as some others, the exhibition analyses the central event in 1969 in a substantial and concentrated discourse.This rather small and concentrated exhibition has enormous educational capacity and will hopefully travel around in this celebration year for mankind.