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Five essential things you need to know about the new MoMA

Five essential things you need to know about the new MoMA
Photograph: Ali Garber

Have you heard? After three years of planning and construction—including a four-month closure this summer—the Museum of Modern Art has finally thrown open its doors to a shiny, reconfigured self, offering the public more MoMA to love (or at least to ponder) than ever. The massive expansion brings the institution’s total size to a whopping 708,000 square feet, 166,000 of which are dedicated to exhibition space. Admittedly, we gave the place three stars, but it’s still worth a visit. To help you find your way, here are five things you need to know about the new MoMA.

Photograph: Ali Garber

1) MoMA’s new street-level gallery is always free.

We’ve got a stellar tip for you: Once you stroll inside, hang a left and head down the corridor to a gallery that you can visit gratis, any day of the week. At least as large as a typical Chelsea space, it features the most contemporary in contemporary art. Currently, two shows are on view: “Energy,” in which an array of designers explore the eponymous subject in all its manifold forms and resonances, and a solo exhibit of large figurative paintings by Michael Armitage, an African artist who divides his time between London and his hometown of Nairobi, Kenya.

 

Photograph: Ali Garber

 

2) You’ll want to hang out at MoMA’s chic and so underground store.

Long a draw in its own right, MoMA’s main shop has migrated to a new basement level. Don’t worry, though: This is not some dimly lit dungeon. Instead, the 5,950-square-foot space sports windows that face the street, which is great for people watching. Plus, you’ll find a swank lounge area with couches and counter seating.

Photograph: Ali Garber

3) Sadly, MoMA’s controversial expansion devoured a neighbor.

Pushing its footprint closer to Sixth Avenue, the expanded MoMA boasts new gallery annexes (including an area especially for performances) that extend across the site of the former American Folk Art Museum—a striking structure that, unfortunately, was torn down to make way for the new museum.The complicated task of tying together all the desired changes, both inside and out, fell to Diller Scofidio + Renfro, (in collaboration with Gensler), the in-demand architectural firm behind another recent, hot-button development: the Shed at Hudson Yards.

Photograph: Ali Garber

4) MoMA is now way more diverse.

By far the biggest deal is MoMA’s remix of its vaunted holdings. Since debuting in 1929, the museum has held itself up as the authority on modern art, a position of prestige that has meant promoting Picasso, Matisse, Pollock and other great white males, while works from women and artists of color were left to languish in storage. Now they’re being dusted off, as the focus has shifted to a multicultural reconsideration of 20th- and 21st-century art. In that respect, the collection is no longer organized according to a rigid timeline marking the avant-garde movements that first arose in Europe and then in the United States. Instead, it’s laid out across 30- to 60-year periods—each assigned its own floor—that cover artistic developments throughout the world.

Photograph: Ali Garber

5) Installations are all over MoMA.

Now is a good time to visit MoMA if you’re partial to installation art—it’s everywhere. For starters, the museum has commissioned a series of long-term, site-specific projects to create points of interest throughout its public spaces. These works include French artist Philippe Parreno’s skeletal, brightly lit theater marquee, which hangs in the lobby; and, near the entrance, Haim Steinbach’s mural-size sign, which reads, appropriately enough, HELLO. AGAIN. Upstairs, you’ll discover “Surrounds,” a group exhibit of room-filling video and sculptural projects from Arthur Jafa, Sarah Sze and other noted contemporaries. Plus, be sure to go to the atrium for Korean artist Haegue Yang’s monumental installation, which comprises geometric wall paintings accompanied by semi-abstract objects that are festooned with sleigh bells and drawer handles.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is at 11 W 53rd Street (moma.org).

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