An ear will now hang alongside masterpieces by Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Monet in New York City. Don't worry, it's not Van Gogh's ear but rather the emoji version. Shigetaka Kurita's original set of 176 emojis created for Japanese cellphone users in 1999—which provided "the groundwork for the fastest-growing mode of communication in the digital age," per the Los Angeles Times—will be added to the Museum of Modern Art's collection, MoMA announced Wednesday. "These 12-by-12-pixel humble masterpieces of design planted the seeds for the explosive growth of a new visual language," a collection specialist writes in a blog post. Indeed, the pictograph language is now used by three-quarters of all Americans each day.
Of course, the language has evolved from Kurita's smiling cat, broken heart, and high heel emojis, inspired by manga, Chinese characters, and street signs and available in only six colors, reports Hyperallergic. Once Apple adopted emojis in 2011, 1,800 quickly came into use. But do the 176 original emojis really belong among masterpieces? Absolutely, says MoMA, whose collections have also included Post-it notes and Tetris. Design is an important part of its mandate, "especially design that becomes part of people's everyday lives … and we certainly cannot live without the emoji anymore," a curator says. The emojis will be featured in MoMA's main lobby from December to March. (At the Guggenheim, you can poop in a gold toilet.)