MoMA Sculpture Garden Fire Escape


You'd think I'd learn the importance of clearing browser tabs by now. I've had this eBay listing open for a couple of weeks now, thinking I'd buy it. And then last night I decided to pull the trigger. And then to just do it in the morning. And it was gone.

It's a rather awesome press photo from September 1958 of a temporary staircase erected in the Museum of Modern Art's Sculpture Garden after the fire that destroyed a couple of Monet's Water Lilies paintings.

The Tribune Company was selling the print, liquidating the photo morgues of various of its venerable newspapers at $15 a pop, while stamping its watermark across the digital version "to deter image theft [sic]." Mhmm.

This kind of provisory structure, something more than a scaffold but less than an actual building, is awesome to me. It's a type of architecture that doesn't often get documented, much less studied, and almost never preserved. The related exception, though, are 19th century Army-issue observation towers at Gettysburg, but even those seem to have been designed, not just built.

Previously: MoMA on Fire

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: November 10, 2011.

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