MoMA acquires the @

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The Independent Online

The Museum of Modern Art's Department of Architecture and Design has officially acquired the @ sign into its collection, it was announced March 22.

"Contemporary art, architecture, and design can take on unexpected manifestations," Paola Antonelli, the department's senior curator, posted on the museum's blog. "From digital codes to Internet addresses and sets of instructions that can be transmitted only by the artist."

Explaining the significance of her department's decision, she added: "[The sign] relies on the assumption that physical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary, and therefore it sets curators free to tag the world and acknowledge things that 'cannot be had'- because they are too big (buildings, Boeing 747's, satellites), or because they are in the air and belong to everybody and to no one, like the @ - as art objects befitting MoMA's collection. The same criteria of quality, relevance, and overall excellence shared by all objects in MoMA's collection also apply to these entities."

The shape of the design, created by engineer Ray Tomlinson in the early 1970s, is most commonly associated with a monkey (in Bulgaria, it is called majmunsko, a "monkey A," in Dutch, it's apenstaartje or "monkey-tail," in Germany, people call it Klammeraffe, meaning "spider monkey"), a dog (in Armenian, it's "shnik," which means puppy, while it is also called "pesyk" (little dog) in Ukrainian and "sobaka" (dog) in Russian), or a snail (Belarusian, Korean, Welsh).