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From the file of “public goods are not always what they seem,” if they can be made the subject of curatorial exclusivity (can they?), the Museum of Modern Art in New York has added the “@” symbol to its permanent collection. From the museum’s site: “MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design has acquired the @ symbol into its collection. It is a momentous, elating acquisition that makes us all proud.”

Anticipating a number of reactions to the news, the museum notes:

What Have We Acquired?

Tino Sehgal’s Kiss presents interesting affinities with @ in that it is mutable and open to interpretation (the different typefaces one can use) yet still remains the same in its essence: it does not declare itself a work of design, but rather reveals its design power through use; it is immaterial and synthetic, and therefore does not add unnecessary “weight” to the world.

A big difference between the two pieces is the price, which brings to an extreme the evanescent difference between art and design. Being in the public realm, @ is free. It might be the only truly free — albeit not the only priceless — object in our collection.

We have acquired the design act in itself and as we will feature it in different typefaces, we will note each time the specific typeface as if we were indicating the materials that a physical object is made of.

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