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MoMA owns up to Warhol rejection letter from 1956

October 29, 2009 |  2:42 pm

Warhol rejection letter Culture Monster has reported on many art museums and we know firsthand just how humorless they can be. (No, we will not name names.)

So we take our hats off today to New York's Museum of Modern Art for its ability to have a chuckle at its own expense. The institution has tweeted a recent blog post featuring a rejection letter that the museum sent to Andy Warhol in 1956.

In the letter, the museum notifies Warhol that its collections committee has decided to turn down the drawing "Shoe," which the artist had offered as a gift. 

"I regret that I must report to you that the Committee decided, after careful consideration, that they ought not to accept it for our Collection," wrote the museum's Alfred H. Barr Jr.

"Let me explain that because of our severely limited gallery and storage space we must turn down many gifts offered, since we feel it is not fair to accept as a gift a work which may be shown only infrequently."

At the bottom of the correspondence is a postscript: "P.S. The drawing may be picked up from the Museum at your convenience."

Needless to say, it was an extremely poor decision in retrospect. The artwork, which the museum would have acquired for free, would probably be worth thousands of dollars today.

So how exactly did this 53-year-old letter come to circulate online? A spokeswoman for MoMA told Culture Monster today that the "letter has been out for years." 

A few phone calls reveal that the letter is part of the archives at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, according to the Andy Warhol Foundation. The letter is dated Oct. 18, 1956, and is addressed to Warhol at 242 Lexington Ave., New York. 

The correspondence has been posted on various blogs and is reproduced in the 2002 volume "Andy Warhol Pop Box: Fame, the Factory and the Father of American Pop Art," which is published by Chronicle Books and the Andy Warhol Museum.

Apparently, Twitter makes everything new again -- at least for a few minutes, which no doubt would have pleased Warhol.

-- David Ng

Image credit: The Andy Warhol Museum

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