Today the Museum of Modern Art announced that it brought the Rainbow Flag, a key emblem of gay rights, into its collection. “We’re proud the MoMA collection now includes this powerful design milestone, and there’s no more perfect time to share this news than during global celebrations for Gay Pride Month,” curator Paola Antonelli writes on MoMA’s blog.
The announcement includes a detailed Q&A with the flag’s creator, artist Gilbert Baker, for the MoMA archives. “I was a big drag queen in 1970s San Francisco,” Baker told MoMA. “I knew how to sew. I was in the right place at the right time to make the thing that we needed. It was necessary to have the Rainbow Flag because up until that we had the pink triangle from the Nazis—it was the symbol that they would use [to denote gay people]. It came from such a horrible place of murder and holocaust and Hitler. We needed something beautiful, something from us.”
Baker made the first flag in 1978 when he was 27 years old. It wasn’t a solo project, and he worked with a team of 30 friends and volunteers to make the first flags. “We took over the top-floor attic gallery and we had huge trashcans full of water and mixed natural dye with salt and used thousands of yards of cotton—I was just a mess [from the dye], but [it was] beautiful fabric, organically made,” he says. “I wanted to make it at the center, with my friends—it needed to have a real connection to nature and community.”