Museums

The New MoMA: An Early, Unfiltered Look Inside

New York cultural icon Michael Musto snagged an advanced peek at the $450 million upgrade. And?

Photo by Sayaka Ueno

MoMA is not your mama’s MoMA anymore. The long-running Museum of Modern Art has been “expanded and reimagined” with no less than 47,000 more square feet of gallery space, and I must say it’s extraordinarily spiffy—a work of art unto itself.

When the museum officially reopens on October 21, the first thing you’ll notice is the gigantic main floor, which will be refreshingly free to the public. Sarah Suzuki, the director of the opening of the new museum, told me the public can saunter in and see art, sit in a lounge full of black leather chairs and banquettes (“to think about their next move, check their email, charge their phones”), and enjoy the outdoor sculpture garden, with such works as Picasso’s famous She-Goat.

moma nyc
Photo by Sayaka Ueno

“It’s an invitation to our neighbors,” she said, “to have a look, and hopefully we can entice them to come in and go up.” (Admission remains $25, despite the upgrades.)

Beyond the lounge is a big wall emblazoned with the words Hello. Again. Which provides another wonderful welcome (and reminded me of the exit sign at the Murray Hill Trader Joe’s, which reads “We miss you already”; what can I say, I love to bargain shop!).

Gliding around, I felt a bit like Angie Dickinson as she glamorously strutted through the same museum in Brian De Palma’s 1980 thriller Dressed to Kill.

moma nyc
Photo by Sayaka Ueno

Gliding around the new space, I felt a bit like Angie Dickinson as she glamorously strutted through the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Brian De Palma’s 1980 thriller Dressed to Kill. The overall feeling is very sleek and inviting, with automatic sliding glass doors leading you from one area to another, and it all makes sense. As the glossification of Manhattan keeps amping up, it’s a natural progression that this museum would have to submit to a makeover that makes it not only prettier but more inclusive—there’s more room for art—and necessary.

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moma nyc
Photo by Sayaka Ueno

The expanded galleries on floors 2, 4, and 5, for example, will allow the museum to pull a lot more pieces out of its collection and show them in rotating fashion. Works such as Van Gogh’s The Starry Night are permanent, said Suzuki, but most of the art will change every six months, making repeat visits more essential than ever.

This time around, I fixated on a piece I’d never noticed before: Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe Gold (1962) on the fourth floor. The work consists of a small, colorized picture of Monroe’s face centered inside a big gold rectangle that could easily be some kind of gong, and it really stands out in the new layout. Her stardom—like Warhol’s—radiates through the room.

moma nyc
Photo by Sayaka Ueno

Speaking of stars, I was thrilled to see that the museum spiffed up its theaters, where I’ve seen hundreds of films over the years, from retrospectives of auteurs like Robert Altman to obscure foreign films and avant-garde works, plus its annual “Contenders” series of movies angling for Oscars that year. I’m talking about the Roy and Niuta Titus I and II theaters, which are still downstairs, and the Celeste Bartos Theater, which remains in the complex as well. (The audiences at these three theaters often include feisty, mature people who talk to themselves or make scenes, and as annoying as they are, I hope they still come. We don’t want the new MoMA to be too slick.)

As I ended my tour of the new MoMA, I was a little sad to see that, after all, there was no Trader Joe’s–ish sign declaring that the museum missed me already. But I can honestly say that I miss it already.

moma nyc
Photo by Sayaka Ueno

 

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