When she was growing up, the documentary filmmaker Catherine Gund played a fun word association game with her family based on the extraordinary contemporary art collection of her mother, the arts patron and philanthropist Agnes Gund. Catherine has continued the tradition with her own children, and working with Pentagram, she has developed Words of Art, a card game from Penguin RandomHouse that makes this family favorite—and pieces from the legendary collection—accessible to everyone. Pentagram has designed an elegant presentation and packaging for the game that sets off the featured works and offers a smart and playful look into the world of art.
The Pentagram team collaborated closely with Catherine on the visual design of the game. (The designers previously worked on the logo, poster, and other swag for “Aggie,” Catherine’s 2020 documentary about her mother.) The team conducted its own word association exercise with Catherine and helped come up with the name, which is a play on “works of art.” The game includes 150 art cards, each featuring a different work, 16 colorful tokens, a prompt card to kick off play, and the rule book.
The game play is reminiscent of an “Apples to Apples” style word comparison game, with a visual twist. On each turn, one player is designated a Storyteller and offers a prompt—a word, a phrase, a line from a poem or song—that evokes the image on one of their art cards. The other players look at their own art cards and select the one they think best matches the prompt. The Storyteller then chooses the card that, in their opinion, best reflects the prompt and explains why. Over the course of the game, players visually and verbally interpret and describe different works and practice how to see art and the world around them. No prior knowledge of art is needed, and the game is especially good for kids—getting them excited about art, reinforcing language and vocabulary development, and encouraging them to use creativity and imagination.
Words of Art is also an introduction to the amazing Agnes Gund, who has been a lifelong champion of making art more accessible in her roles as philanthropist, arts patron, art collector, former president of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and social justice advocate. The game is an interesting new way to have the private collection seen and experienced by a wider audience. (ARTnews describes it as: “Combine the classic party game Apples to Apples with a visit to the fabulous home of a wealthy collector and what do you get? Words of Art.”)
Throughout her career, Agnes has supported overlooked and marginalized artists before they were well known, and her collection is wide-ranging and prescient. Catherine selected 150 works that represent a diverse group of artists from around the world. The game features pieces both from famous artists such as Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Louise Bourgeois, as well as newer stars like Sarah Sze, Nick Cave and Teresita Fernandez. Over half the works in the game are made by women artists and over a third by artists of color. In an introduction in the rule book, Catherine writes, “The game is a celebration of Aggie’s remarkable eye for beauty, her commitment to visual learning, and the democratizing power of the arts.”
The designers developed a graphic framing structure that helps unify the variety of works, which includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, installations and even performance pieces. The design is based on the concept of framed art—simple, clean and minimal, like a gallery setting, and balances black and white with vibrant blocks of color. The concept of the flexible frames can be adapted and extended to contain additional content, and carries through to the border of the cards and the treatment of the game’s logo, which is set in the elementary sans Agipo (designed by Radim Peško). Careful consideration went into choosing the pieces shown on the packaging, to hint at the breadth of the collection.
The art world is woven throughout the game in small details. When players successfully make a match, they win a token, which is flipped over to reveal a red back that turns the disc into a red dot alluding to the “Sold” stickers in a gallery. The cards do not contain any titles or background information about the works—so as not to influence the players—but the rule book includes an extensive index with in-depth details about the works, including where they can be seen in real life. The designers wanted the rule book to go beyond the typical pamphlet slipped into a game box and be more like a mini art catalogue that can be kept and browsed on its own.