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The MoMA Through The Eyes Of Someone Who’s Never Gone To An Art Museum Before

While many students are spread out across the world this year, new staff writer Anna Eggers looks at art pieces in the 1880s-1940s collection at MoMA to give a glimpse into what awaits students in the city.

As I finished my last class on Thursday, the clouds parted in the sky and sun shone down on me, making me feel like the rest of the day would be magical. I was excited to get my first weekend out of quarantine started. I had been locked in a room for two weeks because of the tragic truth that my home state is Indiana, and I was dying to explore the city in a safe way. I looked up what was open in NYC and I decided–– I would scam my way into the Museum of Modern Art. 

During our age of COVID, MoMA is working at a 25% capacity and in order to get your ticket for the day, you have to order ahead online. Unfortunately at the time of my spur of the moment decision to go to MoMA, there were no open spots left to reserve a ticket. Knowing how humans work, I assumed that there would be some people who reserved spots who didn’t show up, so I began to plot my scheme. While I rode on the R train towards 7th avenue, I decided that I would act like I had no idea about the reservations. Playing aloof always works, right?

Sure, it definitely put me in the position of looking like I hadn’t done my research, but as I spoke to an employee guiding people socially distanced into the building, my plan was realized. She told me there were open spots and led me to the ticketing desk to get my free ticket. I had hacked my way in. 

All was right with the world as I walked into the 1880s-1940s collection. It holds some of the most well-known paintings in the world, curated along with other works of the time period that hold similar ideals or techniques. Because of the current pandemic, the entire museum felt refreshingly empty–– as someone who had never gone to an art museum before, it was definitely a preferable first experience. 

The first painting that catches your eye rests along the farthest wall in the room, the most reproduced painting in the world, Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. Sandwiched between beautiful yet tragic artworks by artists like Munch and Rousseau, Starry Night adopts a deep sense of sadness that one might not automatically ascribe to it at first glance. With bright-hued blues and yellows and almost a romantic use of swirling strokes, Starry Night shows Van Gogh’s interesting view of the world.

Moving forward through the collection, we enter a room that is dominated by the viewpoint of Pablo Picasso. These paintings show his transition into cubism, where the forms within the painting have jutting edges and a sense of movement where those edges disconnect. One of the paintings which prefaces this transition is Woman Plaiting Her Hair. In this painting, the woman maintains a soft quality through thin lines and rounded edges and gives us a feeling of intimacy. She sits only partially covered by a sheet stares into our eyes, making us consider the power that a woman revealing herself can hold.

My favorite painting that I encountered was the Portrait of Gerti Schiele by Egon Schiele. This is just one of many pieces in which Schiele painted his sister who was often a model for his work. Pictures online don’t really do the painting justice when it comes to the almost metallic quality of the earth-toned colors within the painting. The first feeling this painting gave me was a sense of love and adoration that I didn’t really understand until I looked into who Schiele was painting. I feel like he perfectly depicts the love and subtle protective feeling between siblings without any words at all. 

The room where one exits the exhibit holds many surrealist pieces by artists like Frida Kahlo, René Magritte, and Salvador Dali. Arguably one of Dali’s most well-known pieces is The Persistence of Memory, which depicts clocks and Dali’s head as stretched out and droopy, questioning the impact of time within one’s life. Although there’s much else I could say about Dali’s surrealist choices within this painting, what I want to stress most is how shocked I was to find that it was actually way smaller than I expected. It seemed slightly smaller than a regular piece of paper, which especially highlights the discriminate hand Dali must have had to create such intricacy on a small canvas. 

Although the world is currently on pause in many ways, quarantine has compelled many people to try new hobbies, including making art. As we move forward through history and contribute to the art of our time, it’s never a bad idea to glance back and see where we came from. There’s one thing that has definitely persisted since the 1880s, though–– passion. 

During my visit, I finally saw popular paintings in person that I’ve known about my entire life alongside paintings I had never known existed before but with which I felt an immediate attachment. As a bisexual woman, it was amazing to see the paintings from this time period that depict women because there is such a delicacy that each painter seemed to use. Every curve and every limb was perfectly aligned within the painting to give a sense of femininity yet power. It seems very emotional to paint a woman, and it’s perfectly translated by these artists. Needless to say, I think this visit kind of made me want to live out my own Portrait of A Lady On Fire storyline. 

Starry Night via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous This is why people go to Columbia, to become truly educated. You can’t find this anywhere else.

    1. It's called initiative says:

      @It's called initiative Anyone can go online and take a virtual tour all without accruing 250K in student loan debt.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Seeing works of art on line and in person is not the same thing in the slightest. Do you really think you can experience the Vatican in photos?

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