The great MOMA hoax on Ello


In October 2014, Klaus Biesenbach Director & Chief Curator of NYC’s MoMA PS1 posted this on his @klausbiesenbach profile page on Ello:

Klaus Biesenbach

“I neglected my ello profile for a while, but now I have a big announcement to make. This surely is a -ful moment. I decided to put together a show that only circulates around ello and only features artworks submitted to me via ello. Please post your work here @klausbiesenbach if you want to be considered for the show. For the first time ever, the submission process is entirely transparent. Since I have been repeatedly asked about this: Deadline is Tuesday 25th November2014. Enjoy!”

Being part of a new invite-only, ad-free, art-friendly, buzz-driven web site and then having an opportunity to have your art work considered by Klaus Biesenbach for an Ello exclusive exhibition… for many, this was social media bliss. Details of this ‘exhibition’ were nowhere to be found though, so I assumed they were in the making. Details to follow right? He’s a busy guy doing art stuff. My small amount of skepticism was extinguished by a quick google search on Klaus. He was indeed a MOMA man, and his twitter page sported the exact profile picture shown on Ello. Bingo!

This post inspired artists to engage, and soon all kinds of great creative images (photos, paintings, illustrations, mixed media pieces, etc…) were being displayed proudly with the @klausbiesenbach tag. I had discovered the inspiring work of abstract painter Jeff Kraus (@jeffkraus) via Ello and he too was tagging his posts. It was all a bit surreal.

At this point I had been on Ello for about three weeks, and had been posting some of my digital art. and was getting some inspiring feedback from the community. So I tagged Klaus in a few of my own images like this one:


I even tagged a zen-like visual/music sketch that I had recently done:


Klaus did in fact look my images. How did I know? Well, he commented on my posts with a “thx”, that’s how. The short reply is about all the engagement one could expect from a busy art guy right?. Imagine my delight (and all the others too) seeing this in the ol’ email inbox:


About a week into the Ello MOMA art hurricane, something curious happened. Klaus’s Ello page went blank, and all of his posts… deleted? Even his profile picture and description were removed. We were had. Even the Ello developers themselves. A quote from Justin Gitlin (@cacheflowe):

Update: We were duped. This user was an impostor and the account has been suspended. Huge apologies for this. We were fooled as well

So there you have it. The great Ello MOMA hoax. I’m sure some people have been asking questions like “What kind of person does this?” and “Who has the time to invest in such trickery?”. Funny thing is that no one got upset, no drama ensued, no lawsuits were filed (that I know of). People just went back to creating and posting their art. Without the @klausbiesenbach tag.

note: The image of Klaus Biesenbach here was lifted from his twitter page.

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