New York, Museum of Modern Art

Approximately 150 drawings taken from MoMA’s permanent collection explore the diversification of artists into the performing arts through sets and costume studies, illustrating the affinity between fine art and the theater. Since the end of the 19th century, artists have used drawing to translate texts into dramatic mises-en-scène, for heightening the effect of illumination and shadow and emphasizing the form and presence of the character, such as Russian-born French artist Erté’s celebrated association with Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, or Diego Rivera’s costume and set designs for the Philadelphia Civic Opera Company’s 1932 production of H.P. (Horsepower).

Today, contemporary names from South African artist William Kentridge to Brazil’s design art siblings Fernando and Humberto Campana continue the tradition, bringing fresh drama to the stage. Kentridge’s backdrop design for the 2005 production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (which he also directed and co-designed) featured black-and-white drawings that employ photography’s positive and negative imagery to emphasize the themes of darkness and light, an integral element of the production.


March 11 through August 25, 2009
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
T. +1 212 708 9431