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Museum of Modern Art: Difference between revisions

Art museum in New York City, U.S.

Museum of Modern Art

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Established November 7, 1929; 94 years ago (1929-11-07)
Location 11 West 53rd Street
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Coordinates 40°45′42″N 73°58′39″W / 40.76167°N 73.97750°W / 40.76167; -73.97750
Type Art museum
Visitors 2,190,440 (2022)[1]
Director Glenn D. Lowry
Public transit access Subway: Fifth Avenue/53rd Street ( trains)
Bus: M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M7, M10, M20, M50, M104
Website www.moma.org Edit this at Wikidata

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an art museum located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

It plays a major role in developing and collecting modern art and is often identified as one of the largest and most influential museums of modern art in the world.[2] MoMA’s collection offers an overview of modern and contemporary art, including works of architecture and design, drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, prints, illustrated and artist’s books, film, and electronic media.[3]

The MoMA Library includes about 300,000 books and exhibition catalogs, more than 1,000 periodical titles and more than 40,000 files of ephemera about individual artists and groups.[4] The archives hold primary source material related to the history of modern and contemporary art.[5]


The museum attracted 2,190,440 visitors in 2022, making it the 4th most-visited museum in the United States, and the third most-visited U.S. art museum. This attendance was 89 percent higher than in 2021, but still well below the pre-COVID attendance in 2019.[6]


The museum’s main entrance

Early years (1929–1939)[edit]

The idea for the Museum of Modern Art was developed in 1929 primarily by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, wife of John D. Rockefeller Jr., and two of her friends, Lillie P. Bliss and Mary Quinn Sullivan.[7] They became known variously as “the Ladies” or “the adamantine ladies”.[8][9] They rented modest quarters for the new museum in the Heckscher Building at 730 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan,[8] and it opened to the public on November 7, 1929, nine days after the Wall Street Crash.[10]

Abby Rockefeller had invited A. Conger Goodyear, the former president of the board of trustees of the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, to become president of the new museum. Abby became treasurer. At the time, it was America’s premier museum devoted exclusively to modern art, and the first of its kind in Manhattan to exhibit European modernism.[11] One of Rockefeller’s early recruits for the museum staff was the noted Japanese-American photographer Soichi Sunami (at that time best known for his portraits of modern dance pioneer Martha Graham), who served the museum as its official documentary photographer from 1930 until 1968.[12][13]

Goodyear enlisted Paul J. Sachs and Frank Crowninshield to join him as founding trustees. Sachs, the associate director and curator of prints and drawings at the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, was referred to in those days as a “collector of curators”. Goodyear asked him to recommend a director, and Sachs suggested Alfred H. Barr Jr., a promising young protégé. Under Barr’s guidance, the museum’s holdings quickly expanded from an initial gift of eight prints and one drawing. Its first successful loan exhibition was in November 1929, displaying paintings by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Seurat.[14]

First housed in six rooms of galleries and offices on the 12th floor of Manhattan’s Heckscher Building,[15] on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, the museum moved into three more temporary locations within the next 10 years. Abby Rockefeller’s husband, John D. Rockefeller Jr., was adamantly opposed to the museum (as well as to modern art itself) and refused to release funds for the venture, which had to be obtained from other sources and resulted in the frequent shifts of location. Nevertheless, he eventually donated the land for the current site of the museum, plus other gifts over time, and thus became in effect one of its greatest benefactors.[16]

During that time, the museum initiated many more exhibitions of noted artists, such as the lone Vincent van Gogh exhibition on November 4, 1935. Containing an unprecedented 66 oils and 50 drawings from the Netherlands, as well as poignant excerpts from the artist’s letters, it was a major public success due to Barr’s arrangement of the exhibit, and became “a precursor to the hold van Gogh has to this day on the contemporary imagination”.

1930s to 1950s[edit]

The museum also gained international prominence with the hugely successful and now famous Picasso retrospective of 1939–40, held in conjunction with the Art Institute of Chicago. In its range of presented works, it represented a significant reinterpretation of Picasso for future art scholars and historians. This was wholly masterminded by Barr, a Picasso enthusiast, and the exhibition lionized Picasso as the greatest artist of the…

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