Museum of Modern Art is the world’s largest museum of modern art. The collection consists of two hundred thousand works and art objects (painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, industrial design, etc.) by authors from all over the world who created in the last 150 years. In addition, MOMA has a huge film library – 22 thousand films, covering all periods of the development of cinematography. Every year the museum is visited by more than three million people – according to this indicator Moma is the first among museums of its profile and the thirteenth in the general list.

Among the MoMA most famous works are:

  • “Starry Night” and “Portrait of Joseph Roulin” by Van Gogh,
  • “Swimmer” by Cézanne, “Dance” by Matisse,
  • “Sleeping Gypsy” by Rousseau,
  • “Girls of Avignon” and “Three Musicians” by Picasso,
  • “Constancy of Memory” by Dali,
  • “Campbell Soup Banks” by Warhol.

Here is the deal, it’s almost impossible to get all these works in their places at once.

How did it all start?

MoMA founded three wealthy progressive women: Miss Lily Bliss, Mary Sullivan, Mrs. Cornelius Sullivan, and Abby Rockefeller, Mrs. John Rockefeller, Jr. Thus, the ladies decided to challenge the conservative museums of their time, and Abby Rockefeller – and her husband. Sending the world’s first billionaire was a connoisseur of classical painting, did not approve of the idea of the wife and at first refused to support her new project. Want to know the best part? The museum immediately gained credibility and popularity, and Rockefeller Jr. changed his anger to grace.

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Grand opening

The museum is the same age as the Great Depression. Its grand opening took place on November 7, 1929, just nine days after the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange.

The exhibition, which opened the Museum of Modern Art, featured must see works by Cézanne, Gauguin, Sère and Van Gogh. The paintings provided by the collectors were shown to the New York public for the first time. The choice of authors was risky. It was predicted that the exhibition of works by representatives of new areas of painting at best will not cause interest, and at worst it will be ridiculed.

But the opposite came out: the first exhibition in MOMA was visited by more than 47 thousand of people.

Museum ‘artifacts’

Later, the museum received eight MoMA best pieces in that exhibition, including “Portrait of Jacob Meyer de Haan” by Gauguin and “Still Life with Apples” by Cezanne.

The first solo exhibition in MOMA was an exposition of works by Henri Matisse (1931). And the second, held in the same year, – Diego River, who was already a world celebrity and, at the same time, the favorite artist of Abby Rockefeller. This exhibition broke the record of the museum attendance: 56 thousand people watched it during the month of its working.

The monumental works of the muralist and communist Rivera were not to be moved. Therefore, six weeks before the opening of the exhibition in MOMA, the artist came to New York, where he created five mobile murals on Mexican history. And after the opening, he wrote three more panels that represented New York during the Great Depression: “Hammer”, “Electric Welding” and “Frozen Assets”. On the last Rivera depicted three levels of New York: at the bottom – the bank vault, in the center – the city shelter, where people lie on the cold floor, and at the top – the skyscrapers, which rise above the city like gravestones.

Best of MoMACriticism of capitalism has led to scandal and contradictory reviews in the press – the organizers did not dream of such PR!

The second exhibition of Reavers in MOMA was opened in 2011. Thus the museum celebrated 80 years since the first grandiose exhibition of the Mexican artist.

The risk of loss

In the middle of XX century, the museum almost lost all the most valuable exhibits.

In 1947, the New York-based MOMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan agreed, conventionally speaking, to divide the spheres of influence so as not to compete with each other. What’s the bottom line? MOMA was to focus on contemporary art, the Whitney Museum was to focus on contemporary American art, and Met was happy to present all the “old” art. Under this agreement, MOMA undertook to gradually hand over to the Met works that had become “classics”. The move threatened from the MoMA top 10, for example, the pearl of the museum’s collection, Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The parties carried out the agreements with the creak, and six years later broke them. By that time, MoMA had managed to pass Meta about forty works, including MoMA best paintings by Picasso “Woman in White” and “Hairing. It’s irrevocable.

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It is from this perspective that visitors most often look at what is perhaps the most famous exhibit in the museum – Van Gogh’s Starry Night, which MoMA almost ceded to the Metro.

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‘Starry Night’ Vincent van Gogh June 1889, 73.1×92.1 cm

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” Lying Naked” by Amedeo Modigliani (1919)
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Modigliani sculpture “Caryatida” (1914)

Development history

For the first ten years, the museum occupied several halls in an ordinary office building in Manhattan. In 1939, construction began on a new building. The museum did not leave the island – it was “prescribed” on 53rd Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, near the Rockefeller Center. At one time it was even planned to “connect” them with a pedestrian alley, but it did not move further than the drawings. But the MOMA building was completed and rebuilt several times. The last reconstruction took place in 2004, when the museum celebrated its 75th anniversary. Through the efforts of Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi the museum area has almost doubled and now is 62 thousand square meters. The historic building is “inscribed” in the new one, which occupies almost a quarter and is one of the main attractions of New York.

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“Sleeping Gypsy” by Henri Rousseau (1897)
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Andre Deren, “The Bathroom Girls”, 1907
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Francis Picabia, “This has to be done with me”, 1914
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A visitor looks at the work of Pete Mondrian. Hardly, choosing a T-shirt for a visit to the museum, he thought about this artist – but it turned out so… Funny!
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“Three Musicians” Pablo Picasso, 1921
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Mark Rothko, “Slow Whirlpool at the Sea’s End”, 1944
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Jackson Pollock, “One: Number 31”, 1950
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John Chamberlain, Essex, 1960
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John Chamberlain, Essex, 1960.
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MoMA. Contemporary art



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