Museum of Modern Art

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, established and incorporated in 1929. It is privately supported. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., was its first director. Operating at first in rented galleries, the museum specialized in loan shows of contemporary European and American art. A start toward its permanent collection was made with the Lillie P. Bliss bequest, which included nine Cézannes and the Daumier Washerwoman. Its present collection, which includes more than 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, graphics, photographs, videos, architectural drawings and models, and design objects, represents one of the finest groups of modern and contemporary art in the world. MoMA's merger (2000) with P.S. 1, a contemporary art space in Long Island City, Queens, gave the museum a greater connection to avant-garde art. MoMA also has outstanding departments of photography and architecture, an extensive reference library and archives, and a large film library.

A permanent building, boxy and in the International Style, designed by Philip L. Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone was erected in midtown Manhattan in 1939. A new wing designed by Philip Johnson was added in 1964, and the building was renovated and expanded again in 1984 by Cesar Pelli and Associates, principally with the addition of a 52-story residential tower. MoMA Manhattan quarters were subsequently enlarged and redesigned (2002–4) by the Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi in a highly refined modernist style. Among the museum's new features are a central atrium, skylit and soaring to 110 ft (33.5 m), expanded galleries and office space, an enlarged sculpture garden, and an eight-story education and research building completed in 2006. In preparation for this work the collection was moved to Long Island City in 2002 and housed in a former factory building, dubbed MoMA QNS, that had been reconfigured by the architect Michael Maltzan. The Queens space is now used as a storage and study facility.

See catalog of paintings in the permanent collection by H. Frank (1973); R. Lynes, Good Old Modern: An Intimate Portrait of the Museum of Modern Art (1973); S. Hunter, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1984, repr. 1997); G. D. Lowry, MOMA Highlights: 325 Works from The Museum of Modern Art (2002); J. Elderfield, ed., Modern Painting and Sculpture: 1880 to the Present from The Museum of Modern Art (2004).

views updated


MUSEUM OF MODERN ART. Through exhibitions, educational programs, publications, and ever-expanding permanent collections, the Museum of Modern Art, a nonprofit educational institution popularly known as MoMA, has been a leading shaper and challenger of American public taste. MoMA was the brainchild of Lillie P. Bliss, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, and Mary Quinn Sullivan, who in May 1929 asked A. Conger Goodyear, the museum's first president, to chair a committee to organize a museum dedicated to contemporary art and its immediate predecessors. They appointed Alfred H. Barr Jr. director in August, and MoMA opened with its first loan exhibition on 8 November 1929. Barr, who retired as director of collections in 1967, was MoMA's intellectual guiding light.

MoMA includes six collecting departments: Painting and Sculpture, Architecture and Design (est. 1932 as the Architecture Department), Film and Media (est. 1935 as the Film Library), Photography (est. 1940), Prints and Illustrated Books (est. 1969), and Drawings (est. 1971). The Architecture and Design, Film, and Photography departments were the first of their kind in a museum. Several departments are among the world's strongest in depth and quality. Among MoMA's iconic paintings are Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night (1889), Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), and Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory (1931). Groundbreaking exhibitions organized by MoMA have included Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism (1936), The Family of Man (1955), and "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art (1984). Educational programs have included tours, lectures, lending programs, the publication of guides and exhibition catalogs, and, during World War II, a number of war programs. Funding comes primarily through admission and membership fees, sales of services and publications, and contributions. MoMA has been particularly well endowed with donations of art from trustees and supporters, beginning with Bliss and Rockefeller.

Since 1932, MoMA's address has been 11 West Fifty-third Street in New York City, though it has expanded enormously by repeatedly acquiring adjacent property and undergoing major building projects completed in 1939, 1964, 1984, and (anticipated) 2005.


Kantor, Sybil Gordon. Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001.

Lynes, Russell. Good Old Modern: An Intimate Portrait of the Museum of Modern Art. New York: Atheneum, 1973.

Museum of Modern Art. The History and the Collection. New York: Abrams and the Museum of Modern Art, 1984.


More From

You Might Also Like