November 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 12 mission, but the art that accompanied it remains little known. The Moon Museum was conceived by the artist Forrest “Frosty” Myers, who was deeply excited about the American space program and wanted to place works by contemporary artists aboard the Apollo 12 Lunar Module to reside with it on the surface of the Moon. NASA was non-committal. However, through connections in the organization Experiments in Art and Technology, a platform facilitating collaboration between artists and engineers, Myers contacted an unnamed NASA engineer. At 3:55 p.m. on November 12, 1969, less than two days before the Apollo 12 launch, Myers received a telegram: “YOUR [sic] ON A.O.K. ALL SYSTEMS GO,” signed “JOHN F.”
The Moon Museum itself is a small ceramic wafer, less than an inch in length, of a type used at the time for communication circuitry. Six drawings printed in an experimental technique at Bell Labs were applied to the chip, one each by Myers, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, John Chamberlain, and Claes Oldenburg. Multiple copies of the Moon Museum were produced; estimates of the extant edition size range from twelve to forty. The Moon Museum: Unofficial Art on Apollo 12 sheds light on this important historical moment, offering a captivating example of some of the complex ways in which art and technology are interrelated.
The excitement of time was reflected in the images, many of which were based on other, much larger works by the contributing artists. For instance, Oldenburg’s drawing shows his Geometric Mouse figure and Myers similarly used his trademark abstract form, Lazers Daze. Rauschenberg’s engagement with the space program was already established; he had been invited by NASA to observe the Apollo 11 launch earlier that year and responded with his print series “Stoned Moon.” This exhibition brings together multiple examples of these seminal art works from public and private collections around the country, along with other works relating to the project by all six contributing artists, in addition to one of the Moon Museum chips.
The exhibition is curated by Lynn Boland, Ph.D., Director and Chief Curator of the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art at Colorado State University and is accompanied by a catalogue.
This project was made possible, in part, through a grant from the Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Endowment, which works to enhance the cultural development and atmosphere for the arts at Colorado State University. This fund benefits from the generous support of all those who love the arts.