One small step for man, one giant leap for modern art. In 1969, when Apollo 12 landed on the moon, it didn’t just bring a handful of eager astronauts to the lunar surface. It also covertly carried history’s first Space Art object: the minuscule, mysterious Moon Museum.
Blink and you’ll miss it. The Moon Museum is an unassuming ceramic tile, smaller than a standard SD card. But look closer and you’ll find scaled-down works from six prominent artists from the late 1960s. Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, Forrest Myers, and even Andy Warhol contributed to the interstellar art project – the last by doodling his initials to resemble a rocket from one angle and male genitalia from another (stay classy, Andy).
After several failed attempts to get the approval of NASA, Myers opted to smuggle his museum to the moon’s surface instead. He enlisted the help of an unnamed engineer at the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation to secretly install the wafer on a leg of the Intrepid landing module. The engineer, known only as ‘John F’, confirmed the placement of the tile in a telegram to Myers two days before Apollo 12 took off.
The existence of the Moon Museum was kept under wraps until Myers spilled his historic secret to The New York Times. The paper ran an article on the story two days before Apollo 12 returned to Earth, and a question has plagued modern art lovers ever since:
Does the Moon Museum actually exist?
NASA, of course, has no official record of the art intervention. However, both John Chamberlain and Claes Oldenburg have confirmed contributing drawings to the museum, and technicians have admitted to placing personal effects onto the Apollo landers.
We can’t know for sure if the Moon Museum found its intended resting place without paying another visit, but at least we know there’s a chance our extraterrestrial friends’ first exposure to Earth art will be an Andy Warhol penis.