Exploiting clichés and norms within the art world with work like MOMAS, Kippenberger drew attention to the relationship between the publicity and hype surrounding museums and art galleries in relation to their value. Artists were invited to design signage and posters for MOMAS, invitations to its openings were always widely circulated, and yet it was a far cry from the traditional idea of the art museum. In direct contrast to the way art was a utopian force within ancient Greece, this work is a continuation of Kippenberger's fearless interrogation of the role of the artist within modern society.
Dating from 1993, MOMAS is a careful assemblage of miniature models of fragments from ancient Greek temples, placed under a single pane of glass on a marble pedestal in a parody of a museum display. Humorous and challenging, the work forms part of Martin Kippenberger's most important works, the Museum of Modern Art Syros. Opened that year in a deserted, concrete abattoir on the Greek island where Kippenberger went to convalesce in his later life, MOMAS was exemplary of the German's sharply critical engagement with both art history and societal convention. As the museum's sole founder, director and curator, Kippenberger invited various artist friends to exhibit in this starkly beautiful industrial structure set on a dramatic headland. The inaugural exhibition at MOMAS featured works by Hubert Kiecol, and was followed by annual exhibitions featuring works by Ulrich StrothJohann, Christopher Wool, Cosima von Bonin, Stephen Prina, Christopher Williams, Michel Majerus, Johannes Wohnseifer and Heimo Zobernig. The building was owned by Michel Würthle, proprietor of Kippenberger's favourite Berlin haunt, the Paris Bar, the venue where he first began to curate exhibitions. A significant site for Kippenberger, he went on to build the first subway entrance to an (entirely impossible) global underground metro system, adjacent to this museum. Known as the Metro-Net project, later stations included those built in such unlikely locations as Dawson City West, Canada and eventually at Documenta X, Kassel, in 1997.
A master appropriator who continually questioned and confronted accepted ideological structures, MOMAS is exemplary of Kippenberger's pioneering post-modernist practice.
An extension of the actual site of the museum on Syros, the work contradicts what we might expect. As with the skeletal building, we are not presented with a traditionally complete structure - the sides are exposed, labels have been scattered about, and a column has been replaced with a touristic bottle of ouzo, its cap designed to look like a Doric capital. Their scale gives us an almost god-like perspective; looking down on the assembled 'ruins', we are being asked to contemplate what has been so consciously preserved for our delectation or education. It is a cabinet of curiosity that presents us with the very framework within which we venerate art.