Transform Your Understanding of Art at MoMA
New York City has more than its fair share of stellar art museums: the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art (better known as MoMA) are all legendary landmarks of the Big Apple. With so much to see, it may be tough to choose which ones to check off your bucket list. That said, MoMA, with its extensive assortment of architecture and design works, 300,000-plus book library, and 30,000-strong film collection, is truly something to behold and is well worth a visit.
The History of MoMA in NYC
Considered by many to possess the best collection of modern works in the world, MoMA arose from surprisingly humble beginnings. Over lunch in 1928, Abby Rockefeller, Lillie P. Bliss and Mary Quinn Sullivan, came together with the dream of creating a museum dedicated to modern masters.
Less than a year later, The Museum of Modern Art opened in rented quarters on the twelfth floor of an office building at 730 Fifth Avenue with an exhibition approved by the three women, devoted to the modern masters. (Interestingly, Abby’s husband, John D. Rockefeller, was against the idea of the museum in its infancy and refused to support it financially. He later warmed to the idea and eventually became one of its most ardent advocates.)
Today, MoMA’s collection of nearly 200,000 individual pieces is a dazzling celebration of artists who dared to break free from traditional painting styles, creating alternate worlds in which nothing can be taken at face value.
It’s hard to impress jaded New Yorkers, yet MoMA exhibits in NYC routinely draw thousands of visitors per day, many of them city residents. With its latest expansion, MoMA encompasses approximately 165,000 square feet of gallery space. That’s a lot of ground to cover in one visit!
Here are the permanent exhibits that are a must for first-time visitors:
- Collection 1880s — 1940: Here you’ll find priceless works from art-world revolutionaries who paved the way for the style of modern art that adorn the walls and sit atop pedestals in galleries arranged by topic. Experience van Gogh’s luminous swirls of thickly drabbed paint, Cézanne’s muted palettes and robust outlines, and more in the illustrative fifth floor of MoMA.
- Collection 1940s — 1970s: The fourth-floor galleries are devoted to post-war artistic ambitions that include non-objective works by de Kooning and Pollock, the pop culture idolism of selected Warhol paintings, and even street art beautifying public spaces.
- Collection 1970s — Present: Anything is possible in this no-holds-barred exhibition that pushes the furthest reaches of the human imagination, on display on the second floor of the MoMA.
Check the MoMA website before your visit to find out about seasonal and rotating exhibits and see the live performance schedule. Visitors can also take an audio-guided tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at famous artwork from curators and artists.
MoMA’s PS1 New York
This art institution in Queens is intended to promote an appreciation for art to an extended population. Its experimental exhibits frequently extend past its walls (like street performances throughout New York City), and every year it hosts the Young Architects Program, a competition in which a winning design is used as a blueprint for PS1’s Warm Up music series every summer.
Visiting the MoMA
Due to its immense popularity, MoMA is likely to be filled with fellow art-lovers, meandering tourists, and groups of chattering school kids at any given time. However, weekends are more crowded than weekdays, and school tours generally happen before 2pm, so weekday afternoons are the best time to visit to make sure you can gaze as long as you want at your favorite pieces without interruption.
MoMA Hours and Parking
MoMA TicketsVisitors can purchase MoMA tickets and PS1 tickets on site, through the website, or through New York C3 tickets (which give you admission to three of New York City’s most highly-visited tourist hotspots like the The Statue of Liberty and the Top of the Rock Observation Deck in one simple purchase). If you’re a MoMA NYC IDNYC card holder, you’ll get a free membership that provides admission to both MoMA and PS1.
Are MoMA Tickets Free?
Visitors and residents can enjoy free MoMA admission on Friday between 5:50pm and 9pm. Check the MoMA website for general admission prices.
How Long Does it Take to Walk Through MoMA?
While you can spend as much time as you want (within operating hours) admiring the artwork, most visitors spend about two-and-a-half hours in the museum.
With works from every medium you can imagine -- from life-size installations to photographs to film -- MoMA’s eclectic collection will amaze even the most cynical of critics. It’s a kaleidoscopic testament to the creative depths of the human imagination that has managed to remain relevant since its origins almost a full century ago, and a definite must-see for both visitors and NYC residents alike.
To get the most out of your stay in New York City, we recommend finding lodging near New York City's top attractions like MoMA. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:
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Header image Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art © 2019