Located in Manhattan's Midtown district, MoMA is now one of the largest and most renowned contemporary art museums in the world. Setting aside a few hours to explore this museum is definitely one of the must-do activities on a trip to New York. Here is a short guide to New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the masterpieces it houses.
The History of MoMA
In the 1920s, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (wife of John Rockefeller Jr.) and two of her friends decided to work towards the creation of a new museum. This museum was to differ from the more traditional museums, by featuring contemporary art and artists who were looking at the world in a completely different way.
After securing the support of Anson Goodyear, a wealthy banker and investor, they created this new institution, which was to support contemporary artists. MoMA was the very first museum of contemporary art in New York.
In 1929, they organised an exhibition in the Heckscher Building (having rented a few floors). This exhibition already included many works by artists such as Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Seurat. Through this exhibition, Mrs. Rockefeller raised over $50,000 to help build the museum, and at the same time demonstrated public interest in contemporary art. In the years that followed, the museum was located in various places, including Rockefeller Center’s ground floor.
In 1939, the building that still houses the museum to this day was constructed at 11 West 53rd Street. This building was expanded several times: in 1951, 1964, 1984 and 2010. In 2019, the museum was completely renovated and an extension was once again added. For the occasion, MoMA closed its doors to the public for several months.
Today, the Museum of Modern Art in New York is one of the most popular cultural venues in the city and one of the most famous museums in the world. Each year, an average of 2,8 million visitors come to see the works of the greatest artists of our time.
new York's Museum of Modern Art Collection
MoMA houses a rich collection of works by artists primarily from Europe and America. This collection of modern and contemporary art is considered one of the most important and finest in the world.
It includes more than 150,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, models, photographs and art objects such as architectural and design works. MoMA also houses a library with nearly 300,000 publications, books and catalogues, 22,000 films, 4 million slides, and numerous documents on the genesis and history of modern art.
MoMA's opening hours and visit fees
MoMA is open nnevery day of the year except on Christmas and Thanksgiving. It is open Monday through Sunday from 10 am to 5:30 pm. On Monday mornings between 10:30 am and 1:00 pm, admission is limited to members and their guests.
Admission is free for children under 16 years of age. Adult tickets cost $25 (£19), and $18 (about £14) for adults over 65 and people with disabilities. Students can get a discounted ticket for $14 (£10.60).
These prices include admission to the museum, access to the temporary exhibitions and film screenings, and admission to MoMA PS1 (valid for 14 days). Note that admission to MoMA is also included in the Explorer Pass and the New York Pass (two of the best New York passes 🙂)!
Becoming a Member of MoMA
It is also possible to become a member of MoMA and benefit from unlimited access. An annual pass is available for $65 (£49). It allows free entry to the museum and priority access. For $110 a year (£83), you can also take advantage of special opportunities for members only, and get $5 tickets (£4) for accompanying persons.
In addition to all these benefits, a $200 per year offer (£151) includes the right to invite one person to each visit free of charge, as well as exclusive offers, 10% off merchandise in the MoMA shop, and access to exclusive screenings and lectures.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York spans a total of ta6 floors. Although the museum has managed to stay a reasonably sized structure, a whole day could easily be spent exploring all its levels, if this is your first visit. If your schedule does not allow you to stay that long, you can still discover many works by major artists such as Andy Warhol, Dali, Matisse, Miro and many others, by spending just 2 or 3 hours there.
If you don't want to waste time queuing when you arrive, you can book your ticket online in advance. If possible, it is best to plan your visit early in the morning, shortly after opening, as the museum tends to get busier as the day progresses.
Permanent exhibitions at the New York Museum of Modern Art
MoMA houses several permanent exhibitions on its first five floors:
- On the first and second floors, you will find a space devoted largely to film and audiovisual art, with over 1,200 works on view.
- On the third floor you will find works made between the 1970s and the present day. There is also a department devoted to photography, with over 25,000 photographs taken between 1850 and today.
- On the fourth floor are a large number of paintings and sculptures by some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. There you can admire Claude Monnet's Le Bassin aux nymphéas, reflets de nuages, which by itself takes up an entire room. This floor also houses exhibitions of works of surrealism and abstract art, among others.
- The fifth floor houses special temporary exhibitions as well as the museum’s shop and a café with a terrace. From there you can see the sculpture garden, the museum's inner courtyard, which contains some of the sculptures of great artists such as Maillol and Picasso.
The third and fourth floors contain many of MoMA's most famous works.
Some of the most notable works of art in the museum include:
- The Bather, by Paul Cézanne
- The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh
- Les demoiselles d'Avignon, by Pablo Picasso
- The permanence of memory, the famous "soft watches" by Salvador Dali
- Christina's World, by Andrew Wyeth
In addition to these world-famous masterpieces, you will find an incredible collection of works by many other great artists such as Claude Monet, Jackson Pollock, Toulouse-Lautrec and many others.
The older works are generally displayed on the higher floors, and the closer you get to the ground floor, the more modern works you will see.
What's new at the Museum of Modern Art of New York?
Since October 2019, after more than four months of work, the museum now has almost a third more space for its exhibitions. The space reserved for temporary exhibitions is now able to accommodate nearly 2,400 works per year – 900 more than in the past. More details on the current exhibitions can be found here.
The expansion of the museum not only helped gain space, but also helped the museum truly rethink the way in which works of art are shared with visitors.
New spaces allow for a different approach to the discovery of art. The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio is a place to experience new ways of sharing and interacting directly with artists in the creative process. The Paula and James Crown Creativity Lab is a true creative laboratory, where visitors can come and ask questions and even offer ideas and suggestions for the future exploration and development of the museum.
Founded in 1976 in the borough of Queens, this museum has been directly affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art in New York since 2010. Its name comes from the fact that it is located on the premises of a former public school. This annex of MoMA offers avant-garde exhibitions and is a true artistic laboratory. A visit to this museum is included in the MoMA ticket.
How to get to MoMA?
The museum is located in Manhattan, near St. Patrick's Cathedral on West 53rd Street. To get there, you can take the New York City Underground on the E and V lines and get off at the 5th Ave/53rd Street station. The B, D, F and M lines also provide quick access to MoMA by getting off at the 47th-50th St/Rockefeller Center station.
- Free audio guides in English and a digital map are available on site thanks to the free wifi connection,
- A free cloakroom is located at the entrance of the museum (currently unavailable),
- No backpacks are allowed inside MoMA,
- Photos without flash are allowed,
- Videos, selfie poles and tripods are not allowed.
And that's it for this museum. Hope this awoke your curiosity, and that you'll enjoy your visit there!