The Museum of Modern Art announced details of its Spring Reveal, opening in May 2020, which will feature significant changes to 20 of its collection galleries in the Museum’s newly constructed David Geffen Wing.
The new MoMA opened on October 21, 2019, with a reimagined approach to its presentation of modern and contemporary art, including a commitment to rotate one-third of its collection galleries every six months. This new collection model highlights the creative affinities and frictions produced by displaying painting, sculpture, architecture, design, photography, media, performance, film, and works on paper together. The majority of MoMA’s approximately 60 collection galleries now feature works from two or more of the Museum’s curatorial departments, proceeding along a broadly chronological spine throughout the fifth, fourth, and second floors. A selection of medium-specific galleries within each circuit delve into art and ideas that only MoMA’s extraordinary collection can present.
In the Spring Reveal and subsequent rotations, each floor of galleries will offer a deeper experience of art through all mediums and by artists from more diverse geographies and backgrounds than ever before. Conceived and installed by cross-departmental teams of curators at all levels of seniority, the Spring Reveal delivers on the promise to constantly renew the presentation, and explores the relationships among works of art displayed in continually changing contexts.
Fifth Floor, 1880s–1940
Georgia O’Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, an American Avant-Garde (Gallery 509) will feature works by Georgia O’Keeffe, her husband Alfred Stieglitz, and many of their contemporaries, including Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Joseph Stella, and Helen Torr. Some of the works that will be on view have not been shown in decades. Stieglitz, an admirer and promoter of the European avant-garde, was one of the first to introduce works by artists like Francis Picabia to New York audiences as a gallerist.
Ornament and Abstraction (Gallery 511) will explore the origins of architectural abstraction in both geometric and natural ornament. This gallery features the work of architects in both the US and Europe in the decades on either side of 1900. Key pieces from MoMA’s collection by Theo van Doesburg, Louis Sullivan, and Hans Poelzig, among others, are considered alongside drawings and architectural fragments by Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work during this period explored nature and geometry as a path to invention.
“Modernism in architecture has often been thought to have abolished all ornament in favor of sheer undecorated walls; yet the very search for abstraction and new languages of form in architecture had its origins in the study of ornamental patterns of natural and geometric abstraction in the years around 1900. This is a story that has rarely been told at MoMA even though the collection is rich in examples of the laboratory that was architectural ornament,” said Barry Bergdoll, professor of art history at Columbia University and guest curator of the exhibition.
Fourth Floor, 1940–1970
Gordon Parks and “The Atmosphere of Crime” (Gallery 409) draws its title from Parks’s groundbreaking photo-essay published in Life magazine on September 9, 1957. Anchored by a recent major acquisition from this unforgettable series, this installation probes representations of crime in photography. Parks’s evocative color prints are contextualized with 19th-century work—including mugshots—and a generous selection of crime photographs from the New York Times Collection, as well as a clip from Parks’s legendary 1971 film Shaft. The gallery groups together a complex history of capturing criminality, its intersection with race, and its representation in the US.
“In a career replete with important projects, Parks’s The Atmosphere of Crime is singularly resonant today,” said Sarah Meister, curator in the Department of Photography. “His startlingly frank and nuanced view of criminality in 1957 is at the heart of this gallery and is juxtaposed with important historical photographs that engage with this topic and are enriched by the presence of his landmark film.”
Domestic Disruption (Gallery 412) highlights the work of artists who, in the 1960s, began to focus on everyday objects as forms for inspiration, contemplation, and subversion. Strategies run the gamut, from inflating small objects into enormous versions of themselves, to committing the fleeting to permanence, to turning familiar items strange. Tom Wesselmann’s gargantuan Still Life #57 (1969–70)—a radically different side of Wesselmann’s work and one that playfully reconsiders the world—will be on view for the first time in MoMA’s galleries since 1971.
“This slice of works from the ’60s brings together well-known favorites from MoMA’s exceptional collection of Pop pictures, unexpected surprises, and an incredible wallpaper project to probe the ways in which artists turned the everyday into the extraordinary,” said Sarah Suzuki, curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints.
Second Floor, 1970–Present
Shifting Ground (Gallery 206), explores the pivotal ways in which artists became agents of history during the period punctuated by the end of the Cold War, the rise of cable news, the consolidation of neoliberal politics, and globalization. The paintings, sculptures, embroidery, prints, and photographs assembled in this gallery are emblematic of the span between the late 1970s and the early 1990s—a time of radical socioeconomic, political, and cultural change. The artists represented in the gallery moved away from the overtly didactic and ideological in favor of poetic, conceptual, and utopian gestures. The majority of works in this gallery will be on view at MoMA for the first time, including Moke’s Kinshasa at Noon (1980). This vivid painting, a recent gift from Jean Pigozzi’s Contemporary African Art Collection, brims with people going about their daily activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s capital city, Kinshasa.
“I’m particularly excited to include Julia Wachtel’s precariously close to 5 billion points of confusion (1990), a portfolio of nine lithographs and screenprints depicting crowds of demonstrators in major cities around the world, including Cape Town, New Delhi, East Berlin, Prague, and Tehran,” said Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, Steven and Lisa Tananbaum Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture.
After the Wall (Gallery 208) will examine the political revolutions at the end of the Cold War that swept Central and Eastern Europe, which saw the toppling of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of Yugoslavia. This political turmoil provoked artists to publicly reassess their countries’ histories. Many artists disrupted the unified picture of official interpretations through experimentations in performance, montage, and fragmented narratives that underscored art’s critical potential to imagine alternate histories. Many works on view in this gallery are either shown for the first time at MoMA—such as Sibylle Bergemann’s photographic work Das Denkmal (The Monument) (1986)—or have not been on view in decades—such as a major grouping from Michael Schmidt’s Ein-heit (U-ni-ty) (1991–94), made in response to the fall of the Berlin Wall and East and West Germany’s subsequent reunification.
“To display Sanja Iveković’s Personal Cuts (1982)—a video in which images drawn from Yugoslav newsreels alternate with footage of the artist cutting holes into a sheer black stocking pulled over her face like a DIY version of a militant’s balaclava—with Isa Genzken’s Bild (Painting) (1989)—a sculptural work that underscores the artist’s fascination with ruins and commemorates the dismantling of the Berlin Wall—highlights how political events are inextricably linked to artistic ones,” says Roxana Marcoci, a senior curator in the Department of Photography.
Recognizing that there is no single or complete history of modern and contemporary art, the Museum will systematically rotate one-third of these collection galleries every six months. The next rotation, MoMA’s Fall Reveal, will be on view in November 2020. By 2021, MoMA will have re-choreographed each of its galleries across the fifth, fourth, and second floors.