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Emojis are art now

Before the flamenco dancer, the hundreds of little faces with different expressions and a complete repertoire of different objects, dishes, flags and animals; long before that, emojis already existed. Primitives, with a 12×12 pixels dimension and plane colors, emojis timidly appear from the hand of the Japanese programmer Shigetaka Kurita in the 90’s. Today, almost twenty years later and practically turned into a new means of communication, the prestigious Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has decided to recover and exhibit them in their permanent collection at their facilities.


Paola Antonelli, chief of the Architecture and Design Department of the Museum, explains this decision saying that “from the beginning, in 1929, the mission of the MoMA has been to display and gather the art and design of our time”. There are 176 emojis that now became part of the MoMA collection. Among them we can find a heart, a smiley face and even a Cosmopolitan. The telephone company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, known as NTT, is the provider or this set of emojis for the museum, which years before included the @ symbol and a selection of some videogames among its digital catalog.


The Unicode consortium acknowledges that currently there are close to 1800 emojis which clearly states that its use continues to grow. Today we can find variations in the skin color of these little faces and other symbols that have gained their place thanks to people’s request (like the paella icon). “They are a concept dating from many centuries ago, like ideograms, hieroglyphs and other graphic symbols that allow us to complete a beautiful collection that includes all human history”, said Antonelli.

Although many complaints have been made, the museum is convinced of this collection’s potential. The first exposition will be open to the public this December and will use graphics and animations to connect the oldest emojis with the new generation currently present in our digital universe.

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