MoMA ac­quires orig­i­nal set of emo­jis

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OBITUARIES - By Bar­bara Or­tu­tay

Back in the day, be­fore cars could drive them­selves and phones could send stick­ers and an­i­ma­tions, a Ja­panese phone com­pany re­leased a set of 176 emo­jis.

The year was 1999 and the tiny 12-by-12 pixel de­signs — smi­ley faces, hearts of the in­tact and bro­ken va­ri­ety, cats, and so on — were mainly pop­u­lar in Ja­pan. In 2010, Uni­code Con­sor­tium, which now con­trols emoji stan­dards, trans­lated the emoji into the Uni­code stan­dard, which means that a per­son in France, for ex­am­ple, can send an emoji to a per­son in the U.S. and it will look the same, no mat­ter what brand of phone or op­er­at­ing sys­tem they use.

New York’s Mu­seum of Modern Art said Wed­nes­day that it has ac­quired the orig­i­nal set of 176 emo­jis. They were a gift to the mu­seum from the phone com­pany, Nip­pon Tele­graph and Tele­phone.

“From the start (in 1929!), part of MoMA’s mis­sion has been to dis­play and col­lect the art (and de­sign) of our time,” said Paola An­tonelli, se­nior cu­ra­tor of the De­part­ment of Ar­chi­tec­ture and De­sign at the mu­seum, in an email. “Our time is lived to­day in both the digital and the phys­i­cal space.”

The mu­seum’s other digital ac­qui­si­tions have in­cluded the “@” sym­bol and video games.

As to how a mu­seum ac­quires some­thing as ubiq­ui­tous as a key­board sym­bol or an emoji, An­tonelli noted de­sign works dif­fer­ently than art, which in many cases is unique — think of a paint­ing, or a statue. Some de­sign el­e­ments, such as the “@” sym­bol, are in the pub­lic do­main, which means any­one can use them and the mu­seum can sim­ply dis­play them.

The mu­seum will show the emo­jis in its lobby through the end of the year, us­ing 2D graph­ics and an­i­ma­tions, and con­nect­ing the old emo­jis with the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion.

To­day, the Uni­code Con­sor­tium rec­og­nizes nearly 1,800 emo­jis. There’s wine, a baby bot­tle, a dancing woman in a red dress, and, of course, poop. There have been emoji-con­tro­ver­sies, such as Ap­ple’s de­ci­sion to re­place the gun sym­bol with a bright green toy pis­tol.


This photo pro­vided by The Mu­seum of Modern Art in New York shows the orig­i­nal set of 176 emo­jis, which the mu­seum has ac­quired. The emo­jis were a gift to the mu­seum from the phone com­pany, Nip­pon Tele­graph and Tele­phone.

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