Where were you on July 20th, 1969? Like millions of people, you were probably glued to your television, watching the first images of American astronauts on the moon. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20th, The Metropolitan Museum of Art opens its doors to the exhibition, Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography.
This ambitious exhibition surveys visual representations of the moon, including many extraordinary visual representations of the moon from the dawn of photography to the present day. More than 170 photographs as well as an array of related drawings, prints, paintings, films, astronomical instruments, and cameras used by Apollo astronauts will span five galleries, surveying the role photography played in the scientific study and artistic interpretation of the moon.
Let’s begin at the beginning with The Met taking viewers to a time when astronomer Francois Arago announced the invention of photography to the French parliament in 1839. He predicted the new medium’s potential to map the visible surface of the moon. Over the course of the nineteenth century, astronomers coupled cameras with telescopes to capture ever sharper images of our satellite’s topography, culminating in the masterful French atlas displayed here in its entirety (Gallery 852). Alongside these scientific achievements, artists exploited photography’s optical realism to create convincing illusions of space travel, life on the moon, and the otherworldly effects of moonlight here on earth.
Advances in rocket science and the Cold War space race of the 1960s ushered in a new phase of lunar exploration. Soviet and American spacecraft photographed the moon’s rugged terrain at close range, scouting potential landing sites for their crewed missions. The final section of the exhibition (across the hall, in Gallery 851) features art created in the wake of the 1969 moon landing, as well as the visions of a new generation of artists exploring the legacy of lunar photography.
“The moon has long been a nearly universal source of fascination and inspiration,” said Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “This exhibition shows us how photography introduced new dimensions to its documentation and interpretation, and explores the tremendous impact that the 1969 moon landing had on artists of the time—the lasting effects of which still resonate today.”
Apollo’s Muse traces the progress of astronomical photography and attempts to produce ever-sharper images of the moon, particularly during the 130-year period between the invention of photography in 1839 and the moon landing in 1969 as astronomers and artists capitalized on technological improvements to cameras and telescopes to create ever more accurate visual records of the lunar surface. Exhibition highlights include two newly discovered lunar daguerreotypes from the 1840s, believed to be the earliest existing photographs of the moon, and works by such pioneers of lunar photography as Warren De La Rue (1815–1889), Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (1816–1892), and John Adams Whipple (1822–1891). A stunning photographic atlas of the moon, produced at the Paris Observatory between 1894 and 1908 by the astronomers Maurice Loewy (1833–1907) and Pierre Puiseux (1855–1928), is on display for the first time in its entirety.
Alongside these scientific achievements, the show explores the use of the camera to create fanciful depictions of space travel and life on the moon, including George Méliès’s (1861–1938) original drawings for his film A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune, 1902) and a large selection of “paper moon” studio portraits from the early 20th century. Also featured art artists’ evocations of the otherworldly effects of moonlight, including major works by German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840) and American Pictorialist photographer Edward Steichen (1879-1973).
Advances in rocket science and the Cold War space race of the 1960s ushered in a new phase of lunar exploration. The exhibition features stunning photographs captured by early lunar expeditions sent by the Soviet and American space programs, culminating in the crewed missions of the Apollo program. The final section of the show focuses on art created in the wake of the 1969 Moon landing through the present day, including works by Nancy Graves (1940–1995), Aleksandra Mir (born 1967), Nam June Paik (1932–2006), and Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008).
Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography is organized by Mia Fineman, Curator in the Department of Photographs, with contributions by Beth Saunders, Curator and Head of Special Collections and Gallery, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by the curators and an introduction by Tom Hanks, a lifelong space enthusiast who has celebrated the legacy of Project Apollo as both an actor and documentary film producer. The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Did you know that OMEGA withstood all the NASA tests, making it the first watch in space? OMEGA, a sponsor of this exhibition, has also partnered with The Met Store to launch the Speedmaster “First OMEGA in Space“: The Speedmaster Moonwatch ~ The Met Edition, a new Numbered Edition timepiece that has several special touches dedicated to The Met. The design of the timepiece follows the famous “First OMEGA in Space”, which was worn by astronaut Wally Schirra during the Mercury Sigma 7 mission in 1962.
Today’s updated version of that classic watch includes a 39.7 mm case in stainless steel, with a black anodized aluminum bezel and black varnished dial. It also houses the OMEGA calibre 1861, a descendent of the famous manual-winding movement that NASA’s Apollo astronauts trusted on the moon.
The Speedmaster “First OMEGA in Space”: The Met Edition is presented with a red and white striped NATO strap, a nod to the Museum’s signature color, with The Met’s logo engraved on the loop. The same logo is also engraved on the caseback, along with OMEGA’s iconic Seahorse medallion (below). Each model will be delivered inside a unique presentation box, crafted with The Met logo, and containing an additional leather strap.
Customers will be able to purchase the watch exclusively at the OMEGA Boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York City, as well as at The Met Store and online at store.metmuseum.org.
While you’re there, head to the Roof Garden, with its 360 degree of Manhattan, and the current commissioned sculpture ParaPivot by artist Alicja Kwade.