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Midtown Musings: MoMA

Let it be known: We absolutely adore the MoMA. New York’s mecca for modern art is one of our absolute favorite spots in the city.

It opened in its 53rd Street location—between 5th and 6th avenues—in 1939, introducing New Yorkers to the works of artists like Cézanne, Van Gogh, Seurat and Gauguin. Now, eight decades later, we still look at these artists’ works in awe.

You enter the museum in a bright, airy lobby, which has works by Picasso (we think) hanging behind the ticket desk. We always make a beeline up to the fifth floor. That’s where you’ll find the museum’s most iconic works, all from the 1880s to the 1940s. Turn one corner, and you’ll see Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Turn another, and Dalí’s “The Persistence of Memory,” with its melting clocks, beckons.

One room is devoted to Monet’s stunning water lilies. When we were there, a group of schoolchildren was seated in front of it, jaws dropped at the sheer beauty—and size—of the tranquil, impressionistic painting.

The fifth floor, home to so many of these “I’ve seen that in my textbook” paintings, is usually the most crowded. But we never mind. Stand in front of a work that draws you, wait a few minutes, and you’ll invariably have it to yourself. There’s also a hidden, but popular, café on this floor, overlooking the courtyard below. It’s the perfect stop for a glass of wine before venturing onward in your museum exploration.

On the fourth floor, you’ll find more contemporary works, from the 1940s to the ’80s. Jasper Johns is always a crowd-pleaser, as are Yayoi Kusama and Andy Warhol. Here too, paintings and sculptures have that “Wow” factor. You know them. You’ve seen them. And now you’re standing in front of them. It’s a powerful feeling that happens a lot at MoMA, whose collection of nearly 200,000 works of art never ceases to impress.

For newcomers interested in seeing the highlights, these two floors alone can fill an afternoon. If you’re interested in the special exhibitions and the contemporary gallery, you can keep going to the third and second floors.

And for anyone in New York frequently, we strongly recommend becoming a member. The annual fee grants you unlimited free entry to the museum, so if you’re in the area you can pop in to see your favorite Cezanne. The fee also goes towards supporting the museum’s major expansion project, currently underway. In just a few years, it will increase gallery space by nearly a third, meaning even more room to showcase its incredible collection. We can’t wait!

One final MoMA tip? Make a dinner reservation at The Modern, MoMA’s ground-floor restaurant, to cap off your visit. From restaurateur Danny Myer, the sleek—i.e. “modern”—dining room has two Michelin stars and four James Beard Awards. Absolutely a must!

Check out more of our Midtown Musings on local gems for our insider’s guide to exploring Manhattan.

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