MoMA – A Brief History

The Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) is often considered the most important museum of its kind in the world. The collection owned by MoMA contains a very wide range of works by the most appreciated modern artists such as Andy Warhol, van Gogh and Picasso.

The famous Rockefeller family is largely responsible for founding the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The idea was first put forward by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, the wife of John D. Rockefeller Jr. With the help of Lillie Bliss and Mary Quinn Sullivan, they managed to open the first museum of modern art just days after the great stock market crash of 1929.

A few months later, thanks to the influence of Abby Rockefeller, the small museum had already gained great notoriety, managing to borrow some very valuable works of contemporary art, including some paintings by van Gogh, Gaugain, Cezanne or Seurat. Because John D. Rockefeller did not understand modern art, he refused to help fund the museum, which is why its location changed repeatedly in its first decade of existance, based on who made the most substantial donations.

In 1939, John D. Rockefeller decided to get actively involved and donated land to the museum – a lot on, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. This is where the museum is located today. MoMA continued to attract international attention and in its early years, having hosted many exhibitions, including those of van Gogh and Picasso in the late 1930s.

Under the guidance and leadership of Abby Rockefeller’s sons, Nelson and David, in the 1940s and 1950s the museum’s collection continued to grow at an accelerated pace. Today the museum houses 150,000 pieces of art, including architectural and design works, drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, picture books, movies and art on electronic media. Among the most significant works in the museum’s possession are artistic achievements such as Monet’s «Water Lilies», Van Gogh’s «Starry Night», Dali’s «Persistence of Time» and Andy Warhol’s «Golden Marilyn Monroe». The collection also includes important works by other great artists such as Rousseau, Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso, Pollock, Kahlo and Mondrian.

Opened to the public in May 1939, the building that now houses the Museum of Modern Art in New York was built in the International Style that was very popular at the time. This architectural style refers to the buildings built in the decades of the formation of Modernism, usually before the Second World War. The architects chosen for the project were Phillip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone. Stone is also responsible for other major projects such as the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. President Roosevelt gave a radio speech at the inauguration of the museum building. In 2004, MoMA was expanded, through this process its exhibition capacity being doubled.

Theodor Harasim


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