Museum of Modern Art in New York

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Museum of Modern Art in New York

Roxanne Briano
The Museum of Modern Art in New York City is the world’s leading modern art. Its exhibits have been a major influence in creating and stimulating popular awareness of modern art and its accompanying diversity of its styles and movements. The museum’s outstanding collections of modern painting, sculpture, drawings, and prints range from Impressionisms to current movements. Moreover, there are exhibits of modern architecture, industrial design, sculpture, photography, prints and electronic media. The museum presently has a modern art library of 300,000 books and impressive collections of films that are shown regularly. The Museum is said to be the complementary of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses a more generalized art. The museum is also one of the most visited in the city, with 2.1-2.5 million patrons each year.

The museum was the idea of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s wife, Abby Aldrich, and two of her friends, who also happen to be progressive patrons of the art, Mrs. Cornelius Sullivan and Lillie P. Bliss. The three became to be known as “the daring ladies”. To begin their vision, they rented a small quarter for their new museum in November 9, 1929, nine days after the Wall Street Crash. Mr. A. Conger Goodyear was invited by Abby Aldrich, to become the president of the new museum, while Abby became its treasurer. It opened as the first American museum to be exclusively devoted to modern art and the first in Manhattan to feature European modernism.

With Goodyear at the helm, Paul J. Sachs and Frank Crowninshield were enlisted to become founding trustees. Sachs, at that time, was associate director and curator of prints in Harvard University’s Fogg Art Museum. It was Sachs who suggested Alfred H. Barr Jr. to become the Museum of Modern Arts first curator. Barr enabled the museum rise to prominence and indeed on November of 1929, the museum housed works by Seurat, Cezanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh.

The museum occupied a space of six rooms for galleries to a permanent building in 1939. John D. Rockefeller Jr. opposed the creation of museum as he was not too supportive of modernists’ arts. In fact, he did not release the funds needed for the museum and Abby had to obtain other resources, which resulted the exhibits to be frequently relocated. When John D. Rockefeller Jr. realized how convicted his wife was for the venture, he finally gave in and donated a site to become the permanent site of the museum.

Before acquiring a permanent location at 11 West 53rd Street in Manhattan, the exhibits of the museum of modern arts have already conjuring enormous successes. For instance, the museum featured Vincent van Gogh exhibition on the 4th of November in 1935 that contained sixty-six oil paintings and fifty drawings from Netherlands. It also featured excerpts of the artist’s letters. The success marked the exhibit to become the precursor to hold Van Gogh paintings even to this day of contemporary imagination.

A museum of modern art would not be as they say they are if they didn’t feature Picasso on their galleries. Between 1939 and 1940, they did just that. They exhibited a Picasso retrospective in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago. This was a huge success and perhaps it was the event that put the museum on the map. Included in its works was a reinterpretation of Picasso for new scholars and historians. The exhibit was the brainchild of Barr, who was a Picasso enthusiast. By doing so, the curator set a new standard for all museum’s retrospective exhibits.

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s sons eventually became the board of trustees: Nelson in 1939, who was the primary instigator of the museum being transferred to 53rd Street; and David, in 1948, who soon took up the museum’s presidency when Nelson became Governor of New York in 1958. Under David Rockefeller, he employed the celebrated modernist architect Philip Johnson, who was known for his “Glass House”...
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