Thursday, January 5, 2012
Too Much To Squeeze Into Two Hours On A Saturday Afternoon: Museum Of Modern Art!
The Good: Interesting art displays, Clean, Nice bookstore
The Bad: Lack of parking, Expense for late-day visits
The Basics: A great museum, the Museum Of Modern Art celebrates paintings, photography, sculpture and films with rotating exhibits that one needs a full day to see!
If I were to sit down with my father and tell him about my recent New York City trip, which was a gift from me to my partner, he would probably shake his head and solemnly declare, "What a shame; you missed out on so much!" I did not organize the trip to fly in the face of my childhood travel experiences, but somehow the trip for my partner and I - the best of either of our lives - seemed to end up as a cathartic experience to our childhoods of overplanned, highly-educational, blurry, strangely unmemorable experiences. My father, I know, meant well; he knew there would be no other time in our lives that we as a family could up and go places, afford to do it and have it mean something to us. But travel with my father was essentially an endurance exercise whereby we as a family attempted to his X number of historical/educational sites per hour, per day. It was unrelenting and my own failure to recall the places we traveled together when my brother tries telling me a story, usually results in my brother trying to jog my memory with, "That was the time our father stopped the car to yell at [insert name of me, my brother or my former stepbrother]. . ." My brother remembers the yelling, I've effectively repressed it all. My poor father! He meant well.
So, I am fairly certain that his reaction to the first day my fiance and I spent in New York City would be one of headshaking disappointment. After all, that first day, we awoke at our hotel in Edgewater, New Jersey, then I was suckered into going to a jewelry shop (a devious one, my fiance is!) where we found rings for one another. It was mid-afternoon when we actually drove over the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan to have lunch and then do the one thing we knew was in the area for the day: visit the Museum Of Modern Art.
If this seems like one of my shorter travel reviews (it is!), there is a good reason (read on!). However, it ought to be noted up front that the Museum Of Modern Art is not all that vigilant about letting visitors know their hours. It turns out that the museum closes at 5:30 on Saturdays, a fact that the people selling tickets for $20/ea. fail to inform you of when purchasing admission tickets. The result is simple: my fiance and I reached a point at which we had to determine whether or not to run through a bunch of exhibits or stay where we were having a good time. We chose the latter and the result is that neither of us saw as much of the Museum Of Modern Art as we might have.
The Museum Of Modern Art in New York City is in Manhattan, at 11 West 53rd Street. This is in the convenient part of the City where streets are roughly gridlike and the numbers make sense. We had lunch at the Europa Cafe nearby and could see the banners for MOMA when we left the restaurant.
Ease Of Local Transport/Parking
This is in downtown Manhattan, one of the most crowded, biggest cities in the world. Driving to the Museum Of Modern Art is not recommended. There are subway stops right nearby, at 5th Avenue and 53 St. or parking elsewhere and walking over will yield better results. We found a nice little parking garage on 54th between 11th and 10th that had very reasonable rates and we were able to hoof it just fine.
In this section of the City, there is very little in the way of parking onstreet, which means one is going to be paying for parking at one of the more expensive places or circling around swearing for quite some time.
Getting around inside the Museum Of Modern Art is fairly easy as there is a pretty massive lobby. In the lobby there are desks where museum staff sells tickets to the exhibits. An adult admission is $20.00, the student admission my partner got was slightly discounted. This gave us access to all but a few exhibits, which were visiting exhibitions.
The whole reason to come to MOMA is to see some of the finest contemporary art in the world. There are permanent collections and visiting exhibitions and here is where realism demands one acknowledge that this is not a museum to try to take in in just a few hours. With six floors plus an outdoor sculpture garden, the Museum Of Modern Art has a lot to offer visitors, but not those who want to speed through it (or are forced to because of the late hour).
Our first stop on our visit was the sculpture garden. Despite the cold, we left the museum proper for the sculpture garden, which is a giant, open space filled with (you guessed it!) sculptures. Most of the sculptures were on the order of ten feet tall and several of them, like a giant naked lady reclining on the ground, are horizontal as opposed to standing upright. There were creepy emaciated metal pieces, though most of the work was done in marble or other stones. The sculpture garden was a wide open space and there were less than twenty-five pieces out in the courtyard, so each piece is given ample breathing room. It is hard to imagine this section ever being packed with people.
We visited the Bastiste Madalena exhibit next. This was an exhibition of hand-painted movie posters from the mid 1920s. Painted in bright, vivid colors by Madalena, this was a harmless, inoffensive artistic collection from the silent movie era. What was so fascinating and worthwhile about this exhibit (outside realizing that top billing for a film could change poster to poster!) was the presence of movie posters for films which no longer exist! It was fascinating to read about how the artist tried to portray likable aspects of actors of the day on the movie posters and the exhibition was fairly cool.
Also neat was the sculpture works of Martin Kippenberger, whose exhibition at MOMA is entitled "The Problem Perspective." This was a collection of pieces, primarily furniture, that Kippenberger had created or adapted (like teacup seats from a carnival ride on a track facing one another) that illustrated a lot of creativity. Playing over this collection was a video loop, the most memorable portion being cheerleaders running in slow motion as they were slowly whited out. The furniture exhibition was brightly colored and filled with pieces that worked (or didn't) and gave my fiance and I pause and fodder for conversation. These had the feeling of being "found art" and the mix of that and the more chiseled works in the garden made for an interesting contrast.
At that point, we stopped and went to the bookstore at MOMA because we wanted a few minutes off our feet. Had we known that the Museum was going to close, we probably wouldn't have. The thing is, MOMA is packed with art from great, recognizable artists. We saw a few Warhols just walking around. Van Gogh's "Starry Night" is housed here and we missed that. There are four more floors of photographs, paintings and performance art works. As well, the Museum Of Modern Art has performance art and films that rotate daily. In order to get the most out of the experience, arrive early and plan to spend the day there. If you do not enjoy it, Central Park is three blocks over and you can spend time there when you're done. But odds are, anyone who loves art will find enough to keep them occupied from opening to closing (the Museum opens at 10:30 each day and is closed Tuesdays). Virtually every famous modern artist has works on display at MOMA. From Warhol to Van Gogh to Pollack, there is something for everyone who likes modern art here!
The Museum Of Modern Art has a comprehensive website that lets visitors know exactly when exhibitions are coming and going. So, for example, while there are permanent displays of the Warhols, Van Goghs and the sculpture Garden, things like the Madalena and Kippenberger exhibits we saw will be gone in just a few weeks. Art, as is the saying, is a highly subjective experience. As such, the question a potential visitor must ask themselves when considering visiting the Museum Of Modern Art is: "How much do I like art?" and/or "Do I truly want to spend a whole day looking at paintings, photographs, sculptures and/or films?" If the answers are "a lot" and/or "Yes!" the Museum Of Modern Art is for you. With frequently-changing exhibits, MOMA is a different experience each time you visit. Yes, there are masters whose works are permanently lodged there, so it will never be an experience lacking in either culture or enough to look at.
There is a cafe within MOMA, but we did not dine there. Judging from the prices, either of us would have had to sell a piece of our art to the Museum or a private collector who happened through just to be able to dine there!
The Museum Of Modern Art has a fairly extensive bookstore which puts the average Barnes & Noble's art and art history section to shame. Truth be told, after an hour, perhaps a bit more, I was feeling overstimulated, so I asked my partner if we could sit and look at a book for a few minutes. The "Vanity Fair" Photographs book we sat down to leaf through quickly captivated our attention and by the time we were ready to stop looking at the book, the Museum was closing and kicking us out. Yes, we could have had virtually the same experience at a Barnes & Nobel for less money, but we had fun.
The Museum Of Modern Art in New York City is a worthwhile stop for any visitor to Manhattan, but one needs to arrive early if they want to maximize their admission price's value.
For other places in New York City to visit, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Lincoln Center For The Performing Arts
For other travel reviews, please visit my Travel Index Page!
© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.