New York is considered the epicenter of creativity, provocativeness, everything new and unusual. This city of endless possibilities is imbued with freedom, including freedom to art. You can open the curtain and get acquainted with challenging and unusual expositions of modern creators among the dense forest of skyscrapers at the Museum of Modern Art.
History of the Museum of Modern Art
In 1928, a group of wealthy art lovers and philanthropists, namely Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Lillie P. Bliss and Mary Quinn Sullivan, decided to change the traditional museum. They developed an idea for a small museum whose main purpose was to “encourage and promote contemporary art.”
The so-called “daring ladies” partnered with A. Conger Goodyear, a prominent collector and curator who had previously chaired the board of trustees of the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Frank Crowninshield, founding editor of Vanity Fair, and collector and social activist Josephine Boardman Crane joined the board. Along with Harvard professor and art historian Paul J. Sachs, the newly formed board appointed Alfred H. Barr as the museum’s director. From that time on, Alfred, still a recent student and curator of one exhibition, became a mentor to New York’s Museum of Modern Art for many years to come.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was originally housed on the 12th floor of the Heckscher Building, with its first exhibition opening on November 7, 1929. Three years later, the museum moved to a mansion on 53rd Street, which still forms part of its current complex.
In 1937, MoMA moved to Rockefeller Center, and on May 10, 1939, it opened to the public in a specially constructed new building designed by modernist architects Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone.
In 1947, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art formally agreed that exhibits from MoMA’s collection would “move” to the MET. But in 1953, the agreement was broken because the Museum of Modern Art could quickly lose its collection.
The history of the museum’s remodeling didn’t stop there. Renovations in the 1980s and 2000s increased MoMA’s space several times over.
In the 2000s, the exhibition space increased several times, and the museum’s popularity grew inexorably.
What is the museum today
It is best to start acquaintance with the New York museum from the very top tiers. On the top floor there are temporary exhibitions, where works of modern masters from different currents and schools are presented.
On the fifth floor there is an exposition of post-impressionist artists, for example, here you can see the works of Paul Cézanne. On the same floor are exhibited works by Gauguin, Rousseau and others.
Going down the stairs below, you can see the famous sculpture “Dance” by Matisse, and inside the hall on the fourth floor there are expositions of minimalism, abstractionism, expressionism and pop art by Andy Warhol.
The third floor introduces architecture and furniture from around the world.
The second floor is again changing temporary exhibitions and the Atrium has the most visited outdoor sculpture garden. There are movie theaters in the subterranean rooms with documentary film screenings. The underground floors are home to The Modern restaurant and gift stores.
New York Museum of Modern Art’s exhibitions
The first works donated were prints and drawings by prominent German Impressionists, including Lady with a Mirror by Max Beckmann. The first major acquisition was Pablo Picasso’s painting Girl before a Mirror, which fetched $10,000 in 1938.
In a 1974 interview, Alfred Barr’s wife, Marga, said that The Girl Before the Mirror was “the first really important painting that Alfred was able to buy.” Consciously or not, Barr’s first major acquisition echoed the theme and form of Beckman’s Lady with a Mirror, one of the first works to enter MoMA’s collection.
It’s worth noting that the museum is primarily attracted to famous world masterpieces. In 1941, for example, MoMA acquired one of the most striking works of post-impressionism, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, from the Paul Rosenberg Gallery. Restorers were forced to put glass on the painting because it was discovered that visitors liked to kiss the work.
In 2001, Latin American art collector Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (and with her a member of MoMa’s board of trustees) donated the work Thread to the museum. The sculpture by Meireles, a Brazilian artist, consists of forty-eight hay bales encircled with gold wire, and at one end of the wire a golden needle is threaded into the cube, recalling the adage “looking for a needle in a haystack.” The addition of Meireles’ work is just one example of MoMA’s attempt in recent decades to acquire artworks by women artists, although the percentage of women artists in the collection remains extremely low.
The MoMA Museum in New York is a must-see, as it collects all the most interesting and colorful things in both modern and classical art. The museum will not leave aside people who are just discovering the art world and want to dive in and explore it.