Metropolitan Museum of Art

A Tour of New York City’s MoMA

NYC Museum of Modern Art Guide

The Museum of Modern Art displays a vast collection of art including paintings, drawings, sculptures, and film programs – A New York experience for the whole family.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City showcases some of the greatest works of paintings and sculptures, drawings, prints, and illustrated books in the city, if not the world. For generations, artists and musicians have found a haven in New York City and a multitude of spaces to display their talents but rarely as prestigious as MoMA.

Located at 11 West 53 Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, the six-story building, a work of modern art itself, offers a breezy and relaxed atmosphere through which to wander and gaze at the exquisite collections from such greats as Picasso, Matisse, and Warhol.

The museum received a major renovation in the early part of the decade and since the 2004 grand reopening, MoMA has reclaimed its rightful place among the city’s must-see attractions.

To discover the museum, take at least a half-day, or prepare to return over several days. You simply cannot absorb the variety of exhibits in a flash visit. Take time to mingle among the pieces and read the accompanying texts that provide insight into the artists’ vision.

Terrace 5, Dali and Film Programs

Tour the museum from the top floor downward. Many of the more famous works hang on the upper gallery walls. While at the top, stop for a coffee and dessert at the fabulous Terrace 5 (or the Carroll and Milton Petrie) Café– better still, dine on the outdoor terrace overlooking the simple yet refined sculpture garden filled with more works and several ponds. But be warned, prices are steep.

Along with brilliant pieces such as ‘The Little Theatre’ by Salvador Dali, paintings like ‘The Bather’ by Paul Cezanne, you’ll also discover the whimsical such as ‘Steel Wire’ by Alexander Calder, the shadow of a woman made of wire hanging from the ceiling.

Film lovers enjoy MoMA’s exciting film programs. With rotating screenings of the museum’s 19,000 films, cinephiles can view modern classics as well as animated films every day of the week.

MOMA: the Darker Side of Henri Matisse

See Henri Matisse as you have never seen him before. The new exposition at the MOMA focuses on what some have called the war years of 1913-1917. It was a pivotal period in Matisse’s artistic development when he seemed to abandon his interest in decorative patterning and brilliant color for darker, grim, and more abstract compositions.

The curators at the MOMA propose that these geometrically composed paintings, dominated by blacks and grays, were in some way a response to World War I, which broke out in Europe in 1914, a year after Matisse had returned to Paris from Morocco. These works are also thought to represent his attempt to absorb, respond and counter the challenge of cubism, which at the time was the dominant trend in the avant-garde art world, with its radical reinvention of form and space.

The centerpiece work of the show is the oil painting, “Bathers by a River,” Matisse had reused this theme from a bright, decorative watercolor of five figures in a lush landscape from 1909. The Blacks and gray pallet transformed the subject, to a more abstract, faceless, geometric, and monumental expression of the grim new reality the war years had brought on.

Admission to MoMA

A day at MoMA is a day well-spent but you’ll also notice the hefty price for admission and food. Prepare to pay the price for all this art under one roof. Admission costs $20 for adults, $16 for seniors over 65, $12 for students, and $12 for children sixteen and under.

Visitors can leave bags and coats at the checkroom and while photography is allowed in many of the exhibits, turn off the flash. Leave your paints at home but feel free to bring pencils to re-create your masterpiece. Daily lectures on the collection begin at 11:30 and 1:30, but if you plan to tour around solo, try an audio tour available in multiple languages.

History

Three ladies were credited for the founding of the Museum of Modern Art. They were Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, wife of John D. Rockefeller Jr) and her two friends Lillie P Bliss and Mary Quinn Sullivan. They rented premises for the museum and opened it to the public on 7 November, 1929 – nine days after the Wall Street Crash. It occupied six rooms of galleries and offices on the 12th floor of Heckscher Building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. Due to the initial opposition of Abby’s husband to the museum – and to modern art itself – Abby had to find funds from other sources for the museum. As a result, MoMA had to shift location frequently, three times within its first ten years. Eventually, however, John D. Rockefeller Jr donated land for the construction of the museum building. Plus other gifts over time, he in effect became one of MoMA’s greatest benefactors.

Museum of Modern Art, New York City. Source: public domain

MoMA gained prominence when it held a Vincent Van Gogh exhibition on 4 November 1935, displaying sixty-six oils and fifth drawings from the Netherlands, and also excerpts of the artist’s letters. That exhibition generated great awareness of Van Gogh and increased the artist’s influence on contemporary imagination. Another exhibition, a Picasso retrospective of 1939-40, earned MoMA international recognition, setting the model for future retrospectives held by the museum.

Abby’s son Nelson was selected by the board of trustees to be MoMA’s president in 1939, at age 30. He was instrumental in the museum’s publicity and expansion. His brother David Rockefeller joined the Museum’s board of trustees in 1948, and took over the presidency when Nelson was elected Governor of New York in 1958. David employed Philip Johnson to redesign the museum garden and named it in honour of his mother, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The Rockefeller family continued to hold close association with MoMA throughout its history, with the Rockefeller Brothers Funds funding it since 1947.

The premises of the Museum of Modern Art was designed in the International style by modernist architect Philip C. Johnson and Edward Durell Stone. It opened on 10 May 1939, with the attendance of an illustrious 6000-strong guestlist and included an opening address via radio from the White House by President Franklin Roosevelt.

MoMA closed for renovations on 21 May, 2002. It reopened to the public in a building redesigned by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, on 20 November 2004. A controversy surrounding the reopening was the increase in admission fee, from $12 to $20, making it one of the most expensive museums in New York City. Nevertheless, visitor number rose, from 1.5 million the year before its renovation, to 2.5 million. The museum director expects the number to settle to around 2.1 million a year.

Hours of Operation and Family Programs

MoMA hasn’t forgotten the kids. Family programs offer free tours, lectures, films, and workshops to introduce young ones to the world of modern art. Call 212-708-9805 for more information.

Open Saturday to Thursday (with the exception of Tuesday) 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. and Friday 10:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. MoMA is closed on Tuesdays, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Roof Garden Cafe at the MoMA

Anybody and everybody who’s heard of New York has heard of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Actually, anybody who has the slightest of interest in art anywhere in the world would’ve heard of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

Well, what many people may not have heard of is this drinking spot that is perched on the fifth floor of one of Manhattan’s greatest museums. The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, also simply known as the Roof Garden Café, is considered to be the crown jewel of MoMA.

This café is a really charming way to impress your date. After looking at some of the greatest artwork in the world, you can stroll casually to this rooftop restaurant and gaze at the impressive views of Central Park. In our knowledge, rarely anyone has come away without being wowed by what this place has to offer.

When we talk about the offering, it’s less in terms of food and drinks and more in terms of satisfaction. To be very honest, the Roof Garden Café is little more than a concession stand that offers a few kinds of beers, some mixed drinks, and daiquiris, mojitos. Accompanying the drinks are sandwiches and for desserts, you can opt for brownies and ice cream.

However, even if it doesn’t offer the best dining option, it has to be one of the most romantic places in New York. During the day when the weather is fine, you can grab a shady spot underneath the wisteria-laced trellis. Be prepared for some competition, since the regulars guard these spots ferociously. At night, you can sit under the stars and watch the Manhattan Skyline twinkling below you.

If you are hard-pressed for topics of conversation, you can look at the various sculptures on the roof deck and start talking about them. This small exhibit of sculptures changes very often and it’s just as much a feature of interest as the entire feel of the garden.

So, whether it is a low key date that you are out on, or you want to grab a quick bite before you head to work, or you want to escape the stuffy rooms of your office – the Roof Garden Café welcomes you. It’s peaceful, serene, quiet, and there is something about it that puts you in an introspective mood.

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave., 5th fl, New York, NY 10028 at 82nd St.
Phone: 212-535-7710

Days and Time

  • Monday: Closed (Except Holiday Mondays)
  • Tuesday–Thursday: 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
  • Friday and Saturday: 9:30 a.m.–9:00 p.m.
  • Sunday: 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019
Phone (212) 708-9400

How to reach the Museum of Modern Art

Take the E or V train to the Fifth Avenue / 53rd Street subway station. Walk west along West 53rd Street. The Museum of Modern Art is located on the right side of the street before the American Folk Art Museum.

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