Original Emojis Make it to the Museum of Modern Art


The venerable Museum of Modern Art in New York has acquired the original set of 176 emoji. That is what I learned in a New York Times  article by Amanda Hess entitled, "Look Who’s Smiley Now: MoMA Acquires Original Emoji." 

For some reason it feels like emojis have always been around. Their genesis, however, dates back to 1999 when Shigetaka Kurita designed them for Japanese phone company NTT DoCoMo

There is an elegance in the simplicity of these symbols which are 12 pixels wide and 12 pixels long. The ancestor of the Smiley Face, third row from the bottom near the right, is a far cry from the round yellow circle we know today. The cat emoji however, fifth row from the bottom, has a lot of character and is more reminiscent of today's emojis.

The set will go on display in December and will be found in the museum's lobby. Its interesting that pop cultural artifacts, once dismissed as digital minutiae, should take on such aesthetic importance. Andy Warhol must be smiling.

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