Review: MoMA in Two Hours

Every Monday, Gray Line New York will be highlighting a “Partner of the Week” on our blog. We are going to provide a review for a new partner’s product and share our own insights and experiences. This week, our Partner of the Week is The Museum of Modern Art.

MoMA, NYC, Museum of modern art

Museum of Modern Art

“Modern art is just like normal art, but with a modern twist.”

Way back during my freshman year of college, that is how my architecture professor summed up the idea of modern art. I don’t think I knew what he was talking about at the time, but looking back, I think that may have been the point. While that may seem like a pretty obvious description of modern art, it has always stuck with me and I never really knew why.

Last week I made the trek up to 55th street to visit The Museum of Modern Art. Since my days as a freshman architecture student, I have become quite the modern art fan. I don’t know much about artists or movements or art in general, but I love going to museums. The summer that I spent in London involved numerous trips to Tate Modern. Whenever I’ve gone to the Louvre or the Met or the V&A, I always find myself spending the majority of my time in the modern art section. Despite all of this, I somehow have never made it to the MoMA, arguably the world’s greatest modern art museum, which happens to be located right in the heart of my city. Needless to say, I was very excited for this trip.

One of my favorites, by Wassily Kandinsky

One of my favorites, by Wassily Kandinsky

When I arrived at the Museum of Modern Art, I wasn’t quite sure that I had gone to the right place. When I think about museums, I imagine standalone buildings with a massive presence like the American Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but this isn’t the case for the MoMA. Instead, it looks just like any other building that you might pass by in Midtown Manhattan. There was nothing special about the exterior- nothing that screamed, “Look at me, I’m a museum!”

When I entered the building, shortly after the museum had opened at 10:30 a.m., I felt like I had just gone into a crowded office building. There were a couple of main desks off to the sides, but mostly just an open area of space that serves as the lobby. Again, this was beginning unlike any trip to a museum I had ever experienced. It was ordinary. After a brief exchange at the information desk, I received my ticket and entered the museum side of the lobby. I was immediately overcome by the extremely open architectural design of the building and realized that this isn’t just like any old office building.

color quoteOn the day that I went to the MoMA, I was really stretched for time, as most tourists are when they visit New York City. I decided that it would be best to spend no more than two hours at the museum, so this review will reflect that. This is the story of how you can take on MoMA in less than two hours.

I started by taking the escalator straight to the top of the building. Floors four and five are for painting and sculpture, which is where most of the popular works are located. Once I was on the fifth floor, I began wandering from room to room, taking in all of the different pieces of art. Some paintings I recognized, some artists I had heard of, others I wasn’t familiar with. As it goes for most museums, I didn’t spend an equal amount of time admiring each piece of art that I saw. Some pieces caught my attention more than others, so those were the ones I dedicated my time to. After all, I only have two hours, so I need to use this time wisely.

moma, nyc, art

I have a similar piece in my home, but it’s value is diminished since I walk all over it every day.

The thing about the MoMA as opposed to other museums in NYC is that you need to go into it with an open mind. There were dozens of pieces of art that I looked at and thought to myself, “I could absolutely have made this- how is it hanging in a museum?” If you let that feeling get to you, you won’t enjoy your visit. Instead, just look at the art and say, “Damn, Barnett Newman is lucky that he decided to paint an entire canvas red before I did.”

While there are some pieces that will make you question what art really is, so many others will leave you staring at the wall, transfixed by a paintings beauty. “Color is a means of exerting direct influence upon the soul,” read the info card next to one painting. “Art is a creation for the eye and can only be hinted at with words,” read an actual canvas hanging on the wall.

the scream, moma, nyc

Crowds were small, but consistent around The Scream

The two big draws were not surprising in the least, given that they are probably the two most popular paintings in the museum. The first was The Scream by Edvard Munch, currently on loan to the MoMA by financier Leon Black, who purchased the painting at auction in 2012 for over $119 million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold. It has also been the target of multiple thefts, and versions of it have gone missing for up to two years giving it even more popularity. The painting was also the inspiration for the “ghostface” mask worn by the killer in the popular movie, Scream. For these reasons and many more, there was a crowd gathered by the painting at all times.

The second painting is Vincent Van Gogh’s, The Starry Night. Again, this painting had half a dozen people surrounding it at all times because of its popularity. What’s really cool about The Starry Night is the texture of the paint. I’ve seen pictures in art history books and online hundreds of times before, but seeing the actual painting hanging on the wall was a real treat. The brush strokes are so much more defined in real life than in photography, giving me the feeling that it really was the first time that I was laying my eyes upon Van Gogh’s masterpiece.

My personal favorite was a series of three painting by Umberto Boccioni entitled States of Mind. The series is really a story that has emotion and depth and really makes you feel feelings. I could have spent an hour just staring at these paintings, striking up conversation about them with other guests who took a liking, but since I only had a limited amount of time, I had to move on. When you stop by the MoMA, you should check them out. They’re awesome.

As I began describing earlier, the building that houses the Museum of Modern Art is modern art in and of itself. The spacing and balconies make it so that even when it is crowded, it doesn’t feel crowded. The selection and placement of the art is strategically done as to further provide that open feel. One large room left all of the walls empty just to hang a single piece from the ceiling. The building itself isn’t nearly as big as The Met, but it certainly feels that way.

umberto boccioni, moma, states of mind

Boccioni’s States of Mind I: The Farewells

By the time I made my way through the fourth and fifth floors, my two hours were nearly up. I never made it to floor three, which features Architecture and Design, Photography and Drawings, or floor two which houses Contemporary Galleries, Prints, and Media, but that’s fine. By not rushing my way through the museum to make sure that I saw all of it, I got to enjoy to parts that I did get to. If you’re going to the MoMA and are on a time limit, take a look at the map beforehand and decide what it is that you really want to see. Set your priorities and if you don’t make it to the bottom of your list, there’s always next time.

I made my way back to the street and down into the subway with a craving for more. As I rode the M train back to my office, I couldn’t help but think about my former professor’s quote. Everything about the MoMA was like other museums, but with a modern twist. From the entrance way to the escalators, the Museum of Modern Art truly is a modern experience. As obvious as that may sound, it still caught me off guard.

I cannot wait to get back to the museum. Surly I will be back soon, hopefully when I have a little more time to spare.

To pre-purchase tickets for the Museum of Modern Art and skip the line in the beginning, visit our website now: MoMA Tickets

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