I once spoke to someone who visited New York in the cold of January. She complained on and on about how freezing and miserable the city was. I couldn’t help but ask her why she didn’t go to one of the ridiculous number of museums New York boasts to warm up and soak up some culture.
Turns out her only cultural interest is soaking up beach rays. New York was only a “boring” stop-over on a journey to Caribbean sun and sand.
On your checklist will certainly be New York’s Museum of Modern Art, more commonly known as MoMA.
MoMA was founded in 1929, although its location in Midtown Manhattan (53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues) was fully redesigned by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi between 2002 and 2004.
Back when I was in university and taking lots of art history classes, I would often stop by here when I was in town to visit the art I was studying, although, back then – ahem – ticket prices were lighter on a student’s wallet.
Still, it’s an important stop on your New York visit, and you’ll enjoy your time among this impressive collection. There’s also a pleasant urban garden a great place to relax during your visit.
One of the iconic paintings that visitors come to see – and, more annoyingly, jostle before as they are taking selfies with their selfie sticks – is Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889). This idealized view from his asylum window in the gorgeous southern French town of Saint-Rémy de Provence just before dawn.
Van Gogh admitted himself into this asylum after a breakdown in 1888, following a fight with the painter Gauguin that led to the famous ‘ear’ episode. His time in the asylum was a productive one for his art, and this painting is arguably one of his most loved.
Salvado Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory (1931) is one of the most famous works of the surrealist movement. A month before our visit, my older son had to give a middle school presentation on the surrealist movement for his art history exam, so it was great to admire this tiny painting supposedly rejecting the rigidity of time in person so soon after he had explained its significance to his examiners.
Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) is another classic of modern art you will have seen in the text books before you visit here. This painting of five nude women was an historically important painting – breaking from past traditions in composition and perspective, and ushering in his development of Cubism. The African mask-like features were said by Picasso to add a ‘savage force’ to the composition.
Avignon refers to a street and area of Barcelona known for its brothels, and this work portrays five prostitutes. In fact, the original title (later changed) Picasso gave to this canvas was the The Brothel of Avignon. When the painting was first exhibited in 1916, it was considered immoral. Now it serves as a centerpiece of the MoMA collection purchased by the museum in 1937 for $24,000.