MoMA, as it’s nicknamed, doesn’t want for masterpieces. This is where you’ll find seminal works by Picasso, van Gogh, Brancusi, Dalí, and Matisse, among others. It’s also not an institution that rests on its laurels: In 2019, the museum closed for 4 months to “reimagine” itself. Not only were pieces re-hung and moved, but architectural re-finagling also added 40,000 square feet in additional gallery space, expanding the museum by almost a third. Also new: a performance studio, and several more elevators and escalators to combat gridlock. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, one of the city’s most delightful spots to linger, has not been touched.
If you want to concentrate on the museum’s “Mona Lisa’s” don’t miss:
- Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, which has an even more vivid impact when viewed in person, the thickness of the brush strokes making it as much sculpture as painting. Created a year before his suicide, when van Gogh was in an insane asylum, the painting is filled with premonitions of what was to come, the foreground taken up with a soaring cypress tree, symbol of death.
- Pablo Picasso’s Desmoiselles d’Avignon, a massive brothel scene in which Picasso experimented with a number of art styles—look closely and you’ll see that one of the women’s heads looks like an African mask, another profile is taken from Egyptian art, the woman in the middle assumes a classical Venus-like pose, and a leg of one of the figures devolves into cubist abstraction. Reportedly, Picasso painted the work when he was suffering from syphilis, which may be why the women appear so threatening.
- Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory, in which watches melt and a long-nosed figure (some say it was a self-portrait of Dali, others think it represents an unborn baby) lies prostate on the ground. You may be surprised at how small this seminal work is.
Note: MoMA has a museum-wide Wi-Fi network so that visitors can access audio tours and commentary on their wireless devices; this includes specialized versions for children, teens, and the visually impaired.