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  • Russ Ramsey

Where to start at the MoMA

Today we begin a mini-series of Art Wednesday compilations devoted to some of the world’s finest museums. Up first, MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The star of this gallery has got to be Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889).

Funny story. During my first visit to MoMA, I took the opportunity to tell the museum docent that Vincent didn’t really like Starry Night. He painted it in an attempt to mimic works that were selling, and he knew he was essentially trying to write a pop song as an indie artist. The docent was not impressed. He said, “That just goes to show you that artists are not always the best judges of their work.”

I received his rebuke and refrained from “educating” him any further.

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889

I’ve been to this museum a couple times, and though modern art museums are not my favorites, this one has several of my all-time favorites, including Edward Hopper’s New York Movie (1939). MoMA has several Hoppers, which alone is worth the price of admission.

Edward Hopper, New York Movie, 1939

Jackson Pollock is undeniable. I still don’t know what it is about his work, but I love it. Though it looks random, there is a lot of design, restraint, and precision in his work.

Jackson Pollock, One, Number 31, 1950

I grew up looking at Andrew Wyeth’s heralded painting Christina’s World (1948), but seeing it in person was a sublime experience. The museum plaque reads, “Wyeth’s keenly observed images have a pared down sparseness that gives them a palpable sense of quiet.”

Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World, 1948

Can you call it a museum of “Modern Art” if you don’t have Warhol? MoMA features this one from the man known for his Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962). Seeing it in the context of an esteemed museum enforces Warhol’s question, “Who says what makes something famous?”

Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans, 1962

Henri Matisse has a style all his own—a fluid, vibrant, flat, restrained, wild form of Fauvism. My High School art teacher loved Matisse. Her affection for him, which influenced me to respect him from a young age. Art works like that.

Henri Matisse, Dance 1, 1909

Salvador Dali’s melting clocks… There was a time in my life when I thought this was the coolest painting in the world. I drew a million melting clocks into my notebooks and felt like a cultured metalhead.

Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 1931



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