New York’s Museum of Modern Art (known as MoMa) contains one of the world’s finest collections of modern art. In addition to its stellar permanent collection, MoMa presents temporary exhibitions (often one of the hottest tickets in NYC), and special events. But with six floors of galleries and thousands of works, navigating the vast museum can be challenging. So here is a concise guide to MoMa and it must-see artworks.
The Museum of Modern Art is located at 11 West 53rd Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues.
Subway: E or M train to 53rd Street & Fifth Avenue, or B, D, or F train to 47-50 Street Rockefeller Center
Hours: MoMa is open 10:30am – 5:30pm, seven days a week (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas).
Admission: Adults $25.00, Seniors $18.00, Students $14.00, no charge for children 16 and under. Tickets can be purchased online in advance.
Note: MoMa offers free entry every Friday 4:00pm – 8:00pm. Tickets for these hours are not available in advance.
Note: MoMa is one of New York’s most popular attractions. Ticket lines can be long and galleries crowded during popular viewing times (generally mornings, weekends and holidays). The free Friday evenings are particularly crowded and less than ideal for viewing the art. If possible, plan your visit outside these busy times for a better experience of the works and venue.
Note: After entering, head up to the 5th floor and progress through the galleries in numerical order. This allows you to move chronologically through the development of modern art.
Highlights of MoMa’s Permanent Collection
Paul Cezanne – The Bather: Gallery 1 – One of Cezanne’s most evocative figure paintings, the introspective young man seems to be stepping out of the bare landscape. The work combines Cezanne’s interest in artistic tradition and modernity. In same gallery, look for the artist’s Self-portrait in a Straw Hat.
Paul Gauguin – The Seed of the Areoi: Gallery 1 – one of Gauguin’s finest paintings from his excursion to Tahiti. It depicts a primitive paradise, free of the corruption of modern Europe. As you progress through the galleries, note how Gauguin’s use of bright, flat colors influenced other artists.
Vincent Van Gogh – The Starry Night: Gallery 1 – certainly one of the “stars” (pun intended) of the museum’s collection. The canvas depicts a turbulent sky over Saint-Remy, where Van Gogh was confined to a mental asylum during his final days. The roiling energy of the sky, intense color and exploding stars are believed to evoke the artist’s emotional state. Van Gogh once said, “Looking at the stars always make me dream.”
Pablo Picasso – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon: Gallery 2 – This work is a stark break from traditional composition and perspective. The subjects are five naked prostitutes in a brothel, composed of flat, splintered planes with faces inspired by Spanish sculpture and African masks. Picasso described this canvas as his “first exorcism painting.” It is also the first of many Picasso works in the collection, which allows you to follow the artist’s development through several periods, styles and media.
Marc Chagall – I and the Village: Gallery 3 – this painting evokes the Russian village of Chagall’s boyhood, where peasants and animals live in harmony. The work’s angles and lines were inspired by Cubism. The flowering sprig at the center symbolizes the tree of life.
Henri Matisse – Dance (I): Gallery 6 – Matisse said, dance means “life and rhythm.” He captures the joy and energy of dance in this work presenting mythical dancers in a timeless landscape. This is a compositional study for his celebrated Dance (II), which hangs in the Hermitage Museum.
Monet – Water Lilies: Gallery 9 – another highlight of the museum’s collection, this large work is filled with the water, lilies, light and sky of the pond in Monet’s garden at Giverny. Monet wanted these large-scale canvases to encompass the viewer. Another of the artist’s huge Water Lilies canvases hangs on the gallery’s opposite wall.
Salvador Dali – The Persistence of Memory: Gallery 12 – this work is Dali’s quintessential work of Surrealism. Its theme is time. A bleak landscape contains melting watches, ants (symbolizing decay), and a grotesque fleshy object in the center that bears a resemblance to Dali’s own profile.
Andrew Wyeth –Christina’s World, Lobby – Wyeth portrays his neighbor who, stricken with polio and unable to walk, is crawling through a field to pick blueberries. Wyeth said he wanted to present “her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless.” The depiction of the parched landscape and rural buildings is painted with great detail.
Jackson Pollock – One, Number 31, 1950, Gallery 16 – considered a masterpiece of his “drip” technique, this is among the largest of Pollock’s paintings. The work conveys great energy with an intricate web of tans, blues and grays lashed through black and white.
Andy Warhol – Campbell’s Soup Cans, Gallery 19 – an important work of Pop Art. Believing art should be for everyone, Warhol used familiar images in his works – in this case the thirty-two varieties of soup offered by Campbell’s, which was a staple of the American diet.
Roy Lichtenstein – Drowning Girl, Gallery 19 – Like many of Lichtenstein’s works, this piece is inspired by an image from a comic book. He has focused on the comics’ melodramatic content, and even manually painted the dots used in the printing of comics.
Have you explored the collection at MoMa? If so, what’s your favorite work? Let me know in the comments below.