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What to See at MoMA – Masterpieces, Iconic Art Works, Etc

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has the finest collection of contemporary and modern art from over 150 years, from the 1880s to the present.

The museum is famous for its unique art pieces, and if you are interested in modern art, this is a must-visit museum for you.

It houses over 200,000 artworks in painting, sculpture, photography, film, architecture, drawings, designs, etc.

MoMA’s collection includes works from significant periods, including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Futurism, Cubism, Constructivism, Bauhaus, and more.

This article lists what to see from the many iconic art pieces at MoMA New York.

The Starry Night 

Artist: Vincent van Gogh

Year: 1889

Type of Art: Painting

While museums around the world have copies of Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, MoMA has the original version of the painting.

Van Gogh painted this while he was staying at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum.

From that, viewers can quite clearly notice the creator’s psychological and emotional state, his turmoil and instability, through the swirling strokes of the night sky and luminous stars. 

The play of visit colors, brush strokes and patterns of a village night sky conveys the play of darkness and light, peace and struggle in his life. 

The Sleeping Gypsy 

Artist: Henri Rousseau

Year: 1897

Type of Art: Painting

The painting “ The Sleeping Gypsy” is Rousseau’s inspiration. The wandering gypsies inspired it in France called the bohémiens of the mid-19th century.

The oil painting depicts a dark-skinned gypsy woman in an oriental costume, a mandolin, and a jar of water resting peacefully in a moonlit desert landscape while a lion sniffs her shoulder.

The details of the lion’s unnerving eye and the sleeping figure’s expression are examples of the artist’s imagination.

The composition blends reality with fantasy and mystery through color, geometric forms and details.

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Brothel of Avignon)

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Year: 1907

Type of Art: Painting

The “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” is Pablo Picasso’s groundbreaking artwork and the advent of the Cubist movement, with the angular and fragmented representation.

The painting portrays five nude women in a brothel in Avignon, France, with figures having distorted features and geometric shapes, challenging the concept of beauty.

It led to the initiation of revolutionizing modern art, taking inspiration from Iberian and African art and challenging conventional perspectives.

Dance I 

Artist: Henri Matisse

Year: 1909

Type of Art: Painting

The ‘Dance’ series is popular with a large decorative panel featuring five nude dancing figures forming a circle.

You can see the use of four naturalistic colors: blue for the sky, green for the ground, and black and pale pink in rendering the five figures.

This painting style, with minimal colors and details, is a daring approach influenced by the increasing sophistication of photographic technology.

In his Fauvist style, Matisse conveyed a sense of dynamism, freedom and celebration through the dancing figures.

Water Lilies 

Artist: Claude Monet

Year: 1914-1926

Type of Art: Painting

The Water Lilies are part of 250 oil paintings in the series installed in MoMA.

In the MoMA exhibition, half of the room is filled with a triptych of water lilies floating in a glistening pond, depicting the lush lily ponds in Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France.

He preferred painting landscapes outdoors rather than within the conventional studio setting to portray the changing light and seasons that gave a vastness and enormity to his imagination.

His Water Lilies series best shows Monet’s love for nature and Impressionist technique.

Additional panels from this collection are preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, to name a few.

The Persistence of Memory 

Artist: Salvador Dalí

Year: 1931

Type of Art: Painting

The ‘Persistence of Memory’ depicts his Surrealistic style in the post-World War 1 era.

It features melting pocket watches, a distorted human face, and a desert landscape, similar to his home in coastal northeastern Catalonia in Spain.

The image reflects the unconscious mind of post-war scenes where everything seems illogical.

The imagery of the ant is a symbol of decay, and the melting watches diminish the existence of time and its importance.

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Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair 

Artist: Frida Kahlo

Year: 1940

Type of Art: Painting 

The Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair” is a powerful depiction of bisexuality, defying societal norms and the pain of separation in marriage.

The painting portrays Kahlo herself in an oversized men’s suit and shirt instead of a traditional Mexican Tehuana dress.

It shows that she holds a pair of scissors and hair spread all over, illustrating that she has cut them herself, symbolizing her sacrifice and independence.

It initiates feminism in her to be financially stable by selling her work.

One: Number 31

Artist: Jackson Pollock

Year: 1950

Type of Art: Painting

It is the initiation of the Abstract Expressionist movement showcasing Pollock’s unique “drip” painting technique.

It is the largest of all his paintings and conveys excellent energy with an intricate web of tans, blues and grays lashed through black and white.

The way the paint lies on the canvas suggests speed and force, and the image is dense and lush.

The painting represents the different layers and complexities of embedded emotions and raw energy through the different layers of colors here.

Jacob’s Ladder

Artist: Helen Frankenthaler

Year: 1957

Type of Art: Painting

Another expression of Abstract Expressionism is through this painting, which contributed to the development of this genre.

Frankenthaler poured diluted paint on an unprimed canvas on the floor, and the painting patterns were created bit by bit as the color soaked.

It creates a ladder-like structure with an “exuberant figure” at the top that, in her words, reminds her of the biblical story that the work’s title alludes to.

In the book of Genesis in the Old Testament, Jacob’s dream of seeing a ladder that connects the earth and heaven to run away has a symbolic reference here to the artist’s thoughts and modern techniques used.

Campbell’s Soup Cans 

Artist: Andy Warhol

Year: 1962

Type of Art: Painting

The “Campbell’s Soup Can,” a series of 32 soup cans, represents the Pop Art movement by using everyday objects to create art.

This piece focuses on Warhol’s use and repeated consumption of the same item throughout regular meals.

However, it undermines the notion of painting as a creative and innovative art by repeating an almost similar image, which signifies the monotony and familiarity of the product’s packaging.

Gold Marilyn Monroe 

Artist: Andy Warhol

Year: 1962

Type of Art: Painting

Warhol, known for creating art of daily objects and celebrated human figures, created this portrait of Marilyn Monroe.

An artist famous for his work on silkscreen ink and acrylic on canvas, he dedicated this to his favorite celebrity, who died in 1962.

This silkscreened portrait in a gold canvas is still publicity from her 1953 movie Niagara. 

The image representation and techniques give a feeling of glamor yet transitory, bold yet vulnerable, symbolizing the eventuality of life.  

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space 

Artist: Umberto Boccioni

Year: 1913

Type of Art: Sculpture

A famous art piece by the Italian artist, this bronzer sculpture is a result of his influence by Italy’s industrialization in the early 20th century.

It depicts a human-like figure with a fluid and energetic form that appears in motion, expressing the ideas of Futurist sculpture.

The sculpture has no arms and a prominent face, symbolizing the dismantling of people and the application of swift motion.

It also embodies the spirit of perpetual motion and interaction with external factors, drawing humans and machines closer together.

It is a groundbreaking art movement celebrating modernity, technology, and the dynamism of the machine age.

Bicycle Wheel 

Artist: Marcel Duchamp

Year: 1913

Type of Art: Sculpture

Duchamp extended the boundaries of art by using simple selection and arrangement to transform everyday objects into works of art.

The “Bicycle Wheel” is the greatest example, a metal wheel mounted on a painted wood stool, initiating the readymade concept.

The piece of art demonstrates Duchamp’s fascination for kinetic energy and has two simultaneous motions: the fork spinning in the stool and the wheel rotating on its axis. 

To quote the artist here, “I liked the idea of having a bicycle wheel in my studio. I enjoyed looking at it as I enjoyed looking at the flames dancing in a fireplace. It was like having a fireplace in my studio.”

MoMA Sculpture Garden

The Sculpture Garden in MoMA opened in 1939 and is an outdoor gallery with various changing installations.

It brings nature, architecture, and art together with various contemporary and innovative sculptures, trees and seasonal plantings.

Some of them include 

FAQ About What to See in MoMA

1. What is the most famous piece at MoMA?

“The Starry Night” is the most famous painting by Vincent van Gogh in MoMA, having a footfall of 3 million per year.

This painting depicts the artist’s emotional turmoil and psychological state of mind during his stay in the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole Lunatic Asylum in 1889.

2. What is special about MoMA?

Nearly 200,000 art pieces from around the world over the past 150 years are part of MoMA’s dynamic art collection. 
 
A wide variety of visual expressions, such as painting, sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, architecture, design, cinema, media and performance art, are all represented in the collection.

3. What is called the oasis in MoMA?

The Sculpture Garden is a piece of green open space on MoMA’s ground floor, considered an oasis amidst the congested buildings of Manhattan New York.

You see a lot of sculpture exhibits, along with birds and squirrels visiting this area, making it lively.

4. What type of art is more seen in MoMA?

Most art types are paintings of artists from the late 19th century to the present. 

5. Does MoMA allow photos?

MoMA allows still photography and video shooting for personal and non-commercial use.

It prohibits the use of flash, tripods and extension poles inside.

Featured Image: Facebook.com(MuseumofModernArt)

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