NYC is a city I go to at least twice a year it seems, yet the past few visits have been geared away from the “touristy” side of NYC and focused on exploring the different boroughs through shopping, dining, and drinking. This time I was determined to add a little culture into the trip schedule, so when we set out in mid-March to visit friends, I made a point to stop off at a few museums.
The fist stop was the MOMA, another museum filled with contemporary art, and an interesting point of comparison for my recent visit to the Phillips. Both collections contained the works of Pollock, Van Gogh, and Braque (among many many others), but the whole feel and intention between the two museums was completely different. For one, the sheer immensity of the MOMA–Five floors filled with some of the most innovative, and I must say bizarre, art of the past century. The whole feel of the MOMA is modern, with sharp angles, white walls, and vast spaces. In comparison, the Phillips truly is a house museum. Large though it may be, there are more nooks, crannies, and curiosities in the nature of its design. This is not meant to take away from either museum or collection, but to help provide a little perspective.
Founded in 1929 as an educational institution, the MOMA was the pet project of John D Rockefeller Jr’s wife Abby as well as Miss Lillie Bliss and Mrs. Cornelius J Sullivan. It was the first museum in Manhattan to exhibit European modernists and was able to commission works. Since the museum’s inception, its goal has been to be greatest museum of Modern art in the world. As part of that goal, the Museum professes to seek ways in which “to create a dialogue between the established and the experimental, the past and the present, in an environment that is responsive to the issues of modern and contemporary art, while being accessible to a public that ranges from scholars to young children.”
Background of a museum helps me understand what it is trying to accomplish, and then to take from that mission an opinion on whether it does, in fact, achieve its goals. At this point, having only visited one other museum housing modern and contemporary art, it is certainly hard to say whether it is, in fact, the greatest. However, I can say that the museum is inviting and accessible. Despite the huge size, I was able to navigate the museum fairly easily (nothing drives me crazy more than a museum that is full of so many twists and turns that I circle back on myself, get lost, and leave wondering if I even saw half of it. I am not a lab rat). The building underwent renovation in 2004 and with the design genius of Yoshio Taniguchi, the new MoMA features 630,000 square feet of new and redesigned space. To get a better idea how immense this collection is, according to the Website,
The Museum of Modern Art’s collection has grown to include over 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural models and drawings, and design objects. MoMA also owns approximately 22,000 films and four million film stills, and MoMA’s Library and Archives, the premier research facilities of their kind in the world, hold over 300,000 books, artist books, and periodicals, and extensive individual files on more than 70,000 artists.
The crowd was pretty dense during this visit, probably because it was a nasty rainy day outside, so mI decided to start from the top down (a manner which I normally prefer anyway as you are at the exit when you are ready to exit). The top floor was pretty sparse as they were planning a new exhibit so all that was up was a collection of Warhol who, I am sorry to say, does not interest me. This was only one of two Warhol features within the museum. I am sure he has his place but given that it is not my preference I will skip to the fourth floor. The collection here was where I began to understand the enormity of the MOMA and the amazing pieces (and also where I stopped worrying that I would be bored out of my mind). For instance I spotted this Rousseau almost instantly.
Wandering the 4th and 3rd floors were probably some of the best for my preferences. I was caught unawares by Van Gogh’s Starry Night (wich I poorly photographed due to the crowd gathered round) and several other pieces which I was not expecting, including the Water Lilies by Monet which was so large it took up an entire wall and which now makes sense as to why it took over 10 years to complete (ps I can feel the true art lovers cringing at my descriptions, but remember, I am history-minded not art-minded museum explorer).
There were plenty of curiosities with piqued my interest, particularly as a writer. For instance Oppenheim, Ernst, and Magritte were all in close proximity to one another. Their strange take on surrealism and whimsy were perfectly placed near one another.
My favorite portion of the museum was the Architecture and Design gallery where a collection of awesome modern decor and kitch were all kind of jumbled together in what most closely resembled what I imagine the worlds fair circa 1970 would look like, with all the “futuristic gadgets and whatsits” (including a ridiculous looking smartcar). This gallery was home to some of my favorites which will make for wonderful inspiration for my future writing projects:
It took about 2 hours to breeze through the entire museum, which was partially enabled by the ease with which I was able to skip over the exhibits that didn’t interest me. There were those questionable exhibits that I think only the “true” artist can appreciate and is often accompanied by the signs of “what is art?” Well, if you have to ask…But I can honestly say that if you have any appreciation for art, there is something for anyone there.