Braving MoMA: What to Know Before You Enter

We’ve been asked many questions about how to visit the newly-expanded Museum of Modern Art. Based on roughly a dozen visits, I’ve figured out some of the answers.

All right, the new MoMA is here. When can I get in?

The museum reopens to the public on Monday, Oct. 21. Daily hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (a half-hour longer than before!), and until 9 p.m. on Fridays — and on the first Thursday of the month.

How do I get there?

The main entrance is on West 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, now tricked out with a sharp new canopy. You can also enter on West 54th Street.

How much does a visit cost, and when is it free?

Tickets are still $25. Those 65 and older pay $18, students pay $14, and children under 16 are free. Admission is free for everyone on Fridays starting at 5:30 p.m., but don’t show up right at 5:30 unless you like waiting in line.

Unlike at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where tickets are valid for three straight days, MoMA still sells only a one-day ticket. The museum ought to consider a multiday offer, especially if it’s encouraging visits to both the larger museum and PS1, too. Until then, if you plan to visit several times in the next year, it’s cost-effective to buy an $85 individual membership. Members get in free and can visit for a half-hour before the general public each morning.

You should plan to visit more than once anyway. MoMA’s curators will be regularly rotating the collection displays; come April, all 20 of the westernmost galleries will be rehung.

I’m still in the lobby, and I’m confused. Which way do I start?

I’d suggest starting on the east side of the museum. (Look for the suspended helicopter.) Take the escalators or elevators to the fifth floor, where the chronological display of the collection (1880-1940) begins. You’ll see Cézanne and van Gogh with new company, and then discover “Lime Kiln Club Field Day” (1914), the first feature-length film (according to MoMA) with an African-American cast.

The galleries are numbered, so you can work counterclockwise, moving from the older building into the new wing and back. If you’re enjoying the chronological approach, you can do it again on the fourth floor (for postwar art, 1945-75 or so) and the second floor (for contemporary art, from the late 1970s to the present).

But if you’re more adventurous, head west from the ticket desk, hit the design gallery and Projects gallery, then hop on the new “blade” staircase by Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Gensler. This way will plunge you into the middle of the timeline; ascend to the fifth floor for Amy Sillman’s exquisite Artist’s Choice show, “The Shape of Shape” (through April 20), and to the sixth for the new terrace.

Tell me the three collection galleries I absolutely cannot miss.

Gallery 503 features the knockout juxtaposition of Pablo Picasso with two later American artists, Louise Bourgeois and Faith Ringgold.

In Gallery 406B you’ll find Henri Matisse’s pulse-quickening “Swimming Pool,” whose fragile blue cut-outs can only be shown rarely.

And in Gallery 206 you’ll find work by women from India and Romania to Colombia and South Africa, a reflection of the museum’s deepening global engagement.

Some galleries have funny names. What kind of a title is “Stamp, Scavenge, Crush”?

Many rooms in the new collection display still orbit around art movements — Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop. But the wall texts encourage conversations and cross-fertilization. (This gallery includes Robert Rauschenberg’s “Canyon,” a painting with a taxidermied bald eagle affixed to the surface, but also less famous artists who incorporate repurposed materials into their works.)

Some galleries have precise focuses, whether on early Russian book design (Gallery 507) or on ’80s downtown New York (Gallery 202). Others are broader and more thematic, like Gallery 414, “City as Stage,” which unites graffiti tags by Rammellzee with Trisha Brown’s gravity-defying “Man Walking Down the Side of a Building.”

I can’t find the photography galleries…

Many photographs are included within the general flow of the collection display, offering you the serendipity of coming upon something you wouldn’t have sought out, while others appear in spaces for photography alone.

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