7 Unmissable Masterpieces at the Museum of Modern Art New York

MoMA holds one of the best collections of modern and contemporary art in the USA, but what should you see first?

By Google Arts & Culture

The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van GoghMoMA The Museum of Modern Art

1. Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night

As the village sleeps, the night sky swirls with restless energy. Silhouetted against the shining stars is a tall, thin cypress - a tree traditionally associated with death, but which dots the landscape of France.

Many people see this as Van Gogh's masterpiece, and it's hard to disagree.

The Dream (1910) by Henri RousseauMoMA The Museum of Modern Art

2. Henri Rousseau, The Dream

The self-taught painter Henri Rousseau created this enigmatic painting, The Dream, in 1910. 

Perhaps because he never travelled outside of France, Rousseau was obsessed with the image of the lush tropical jungle. Instead he made do with the zoos and botanical gardens of Paris.

Composition of Circles and Overlapping Angles (1930) by Sophie Taeuber-ArpMoMA The Museum of Modern Art

3. Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Composition of Circles

Twenty years later, Sophie Taeuber-Arp made this purely abstract work, Composition of Circles and Overlapping Angles. 

Its precise structure and utilitarian name suggests an affinity between the production of oils on canvases and the mass-production of machine components.

Polar Stampede, 1960 © Pollock-Krasner Foundation (1960/1960) by Lee KrasnerBarbican Centre

4. Lee Krasner, Polar Stampede

Meanwhile, Lee Krasner's Polar Stampede draws on the wild fury of beasts and the extremes of the polar regions. 

This celebration of freedom in abstract expressionism espoused by Krasner and her husband Jackson Pollock would define American art for decades.

Philadelphia (1961) by Lee FriedlanderFundacion MAPFRE

5. Lee Friedlander, Philadelphia

Lee Friedlander turned his camera to the banal, mundane, and fundamentally kitsch aspects of modern American life.

This hotel interior could well be a promotional image for a furniture company. The fact that the only person in view is on the TV hints to a profound loneliness.

Nan and Brian in Bed, New York City (1983) by Nan GoldinMoMA The Museum of Modern Art

6. Nan Goldin, Nan and Brian in Bed, New York City

At the other end of the spectrum, Nan Goldin's intimate photography takes us deep to the heart of her circle of friends and lovers.

Golden light pours through the windows, is this a new dawn or the last dying embers of ruined relationship? Even Nan herself seems unsure.

Study of Perspective - Hong Kong (1995/2003) by Ai WeiweiMoMA The Museum of Modern Art

7. Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective

Ai Weiwei's irreverence is evident in his long-running photographic series Study of Perspective.

The stereotype of the artist of measuring perspective using their finger takes on a whole new meaning in front of a number of global landmarks - in this case, Hong Kong.

Marble metope from the Parthenon (-447/-438)British Museum

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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