Art & Design

Emojis Are Art, Says MoMA

Art & Design

Emojis Are Art, Says MoMA

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Texting with emojis can definitely be an art—knowing when to send which smiley, which hand signal is the flirtiest and what some of those symbols mean, is definitely an enviable skill, and the Museum of Modern Art agrees. Today, the museum, which is home to some of the most influential works of art from the last few centuries, added 176 of the original emojis to their permanent collection, alongside Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Dali’s “Persistence of Memory.”


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Created in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurira, who worked at a Japanese phone company, the first set of emojis includes four hand gestures, five smileys and a range of symbols—a far cry from the multicultural Santas of today.

“Just like the @, emojis as a concept go back in the centuries, to ideograms, hieroglyphics, and other graphic characters, enabling us to draw this beautiful arch that covers all of human history,” said Paul Galloway, the architecture and design specialist at MoMA. “There is nothing more modern than timeless concepts such as these.”

The museum will house the original emoji designs in the main lobby, with plans to add the current set, alien and all.

“From the start, part of MoMA’s mission has been to display and collect the art of our time,” said senior curator, Paola Antonella, in an interview with the Guardian. “Our time is lived today in both the digital and the physical space.”