This sneaky art prank relied on the optical illusion of trompe l’oell photographs that were not seen as art.
Here’s how artist Harvey Stromberg deceived the Museum of Modern Art, as written in New York Magazine in June 1971:
"With the help of a friend, but with no assistance from the museum, Harvey Stromberg put on his exhibition himself. A New York artist, he describes his work as "photo-sculpture." To prepare the exhibition, he spent some weeks in the museum, disguised as a student with a notebook under his arm, peering nearsightedly at pictures while at the same time measuring and photographing museum equipment: light switches, locks, air vents, buzzers, segments of the floor and bricks in the garden wall. These photographs he printed actual size, covered the backs with adhesive, and one day he sauntered through the museum adding 300 trompe l’oell photographs ("photosculpture") of museum equipment to its walls and floors. (The floor pieces were a mistake: "I didn’t realize that when they buffed the floors they would buff them right off." says Stromberg.)"
Was he more of an artist, or a trickster?(The brick that was a photograph
of a brick pasted onto a brick.)
Rosalind Constable, the writer of the article, was amused:
"I began to talk about that phony air vent adorning the facade of the august Museum of Modem Art, and l couldn’t help laughing. Stromberg looked at me quizzically, then his face broke into a broad grin. "I really have fun doing it." he said. "When I install a piece, my adrenalin is racing. In fact, its very hard for me to come up with serious reasons why I do it."
The air vent that is not an air vent.
After some of Mr. Stromberg’s work remained up for two years, he decided to tweak the museum and had an official "opening" for his "show." How could the museum justifiably stop him, since they had officially exhibited conceptual artwork just like his?
Mr. Stromberg and guests toasted the success of his MOMA show with cut-out photographs of champagne glasses. (The photo is from The New York Times, 8/1/71.)
The fake light switch.
New York Magazine, Jun 28, 1971, Google Books>>