New Galleries and Collections at the MoMA

In the Fall Reveal, which opened on November 14, 2020, 20 of the approximately 60 collection galleries will be transformed; seven of these are featured below. Recognizing that there is no single or complete history of modern and contemporary art, 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 Fall Reveal delivers on the promise to constantly renew the presentation, and explores the relationships among works of art displayed in continually changing contexts. The conservation and presentation of MoMA’s collection is made possible by Bank of America.

Fifth Floor, 1880s–1940

New York City 1920s (Gallery 509)

New York City 1920s (Gallery 509) highlights the exuberant cultural transformations of New York City in the 1920s. Whether the artists were inspired by their dynamic and ever- changing urban surroundings or by the potential to articulate new art, the vibrancy of the New York art scene is evident in Stuart Davis’s Lucky Strike (1921), Aaron Douglas’s Study for the cover of God’s Trombones by James Weldon Johnson (1926), and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abstraction Blue (1927). Mediums like photography and film gained widespread popularity and offered different possibilities for representation. Galleries, art schools, and newly established art institutions in the city became nexus points for artists from downtown to Harlem, showing the complexity and breadth of New York’s burgeoning artistic scene in the interwar years and providing inspiration to the likes of James L. Wells, Peter Blume, and José Clemente Orozco.

“The New York art scene was a hotbed of cultural activity, with a growing gallery scene, the creation of little magazines, and innovations in all different media,” said Beverly Adams, Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American Art in MoMA’s Department of Painting and Sculpture. “I’m excited to show the breadth of artistic experimentation in New York in the 1920s and spotlight rarely exhibited works from MoMA’s holdings as well as recent acquisitions.”

Ornament and Abstraction

Ornament and Abstraction (Gallery 511) explores 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 gallery.

Gerhard Richter. Arrest 1. 1988. Oil on canvas, fifteen panels. 92 x 126 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection, gift of Philip Johnson, and acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (all by exchange); Enid A. Haupt Fund; Nina and Gordon Bunshaft Bequest Fund; and gift of Emily Rauh Pulitzer

Gerhard Richter. Arrest 1. 1988. Oil on canvas, fifteen panels. 92 x 126 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection, gift of Philip Johnson, and acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (all by exchange); Enid A. Haupt Fund; Nina and Gordon Bunshaft Bequest Fund; and gift of Emily Rauh Pulitzer

Gerhard Richter’s October 18, 1977

Gerhard Richter’s October 18, 1977 (Gallery 516), a 15-painting cycle, takes as its chief subject the arrests and deaths of key members of the Red Army Faction (RAF), a radical left- wing organization that led a years-long campaign of violence against the West German government. Made more than a decade after the events pictured, Richter’s paintings are based on photographs found in media coverage as-well as in government archives—imagery he had been collecting over the years, which he abstracted to varying degrees of legibility. The series—a contemporary take on the centuries-old tradition of history painting—does not set forth a judgment or viewpoint on the chronicled events, but offers them up as a subject for reflection and remembrance.

“These paintings—rendered in blurry, hazy shades of gray—are sobering depictions of tragic episodes from a tumultuous period in postwar West Germany,” said Paulina Pobocha, associate curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture. “Some images repeat once, some twice, as if to convey the ways in which these pictures and the events they portray can neither be unseen, nor easily erased from memory.”

Fourth Floor, 1940–1970

Gordon Parks and “The Atmosphere of Crime”

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

Domestic Disruption (Gallery 412) highlights the work of artists Marisol, Martha Rosler, Ed Ruscha, and Betye Saar, 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 among these works and 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, current Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs, and former curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints.

Second Floor, 1970–Present

The Sum of All Parts

The Sum of All Parts (Gallery 206) looks at the relationship—and, often, misfit—between the individual and sociopolitical structures that was a central concern for artists around the world during the 1980s. Their work often touched on major public debates on pressing social issues, including the AIDS crisis, reproductive rights, and racism. The artists in this gallery invoke the human body—both as a physical entity and as a complex symbolic terrain —to address matters of self-enlightenment, trauma, anti-racism, and social justice. Working across a range of mediums, they deploy personal reflection as a means of underscoring how the experiences of the individual and that of their broader community are inevitably bound together, hinting at the potential for collective action.

“The current global reckoning brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and centuries of anti-Black racism throws the 1980s, the focus of Gallery 206, into sharp relief,” said Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, Steven and Lisa Tananbaum Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture. “I am especially excited to include Theo Eshetu’s Till Death Us Do Part (1982–86), a pioneering video-wall installation, consisting of five episodic videos shown on a grid of 20 television screens, that explores the burgeoning media culture of the 1980s and its impact on race and identity at that time. The work of the Berlin-based, British-Ethiopian artist anchors the gallery, which also features works by artists including Glenn Ligon, Adrian Piper, Kiki Smith, and Sue Williamson.”

Installation view of the gallery Carrie Mae Weems’ ‘From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried” in the exhibition (Gallery 211) Collection 1970s–Present,”. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Digital Image © 2020 MoMA, N.Y. Photo by Denis Doorly

Installation view of the gallery Carrie Mae Weems’ ‘From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried” in the exhibition (Gallery 211) Collection 1970s–Present,”. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Digital Image © 2020 MoMA, N.Y. Photo by Denis Doorly

Carrie Mae Weems’s From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried

Carrie Mae Weems’s From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (Gallery 211) is presented as a full-gallery installation and reveals, in the artist’s own words, “the ways in which Anglo America—white America—saw itself in relationship to the black subject.” From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995–96) is comprised of appropriated 19th- and early-20th-century images featuring African Americans, including distressing daguerreotypes of slaves in the American South taken by photographer Joseph T. Zealy in 1850. Commissioned by the Harvard scientist Louis Agassiz, Zealy’s images were meant to support societal preconceptions and racist theories about the inferiority of Black people. Many of the sitters are naked or half naked and depicted as anthropological specimens rather than individuals. The work is bookended by images of a royal Mangbetu woman witnessing the narrative. Through her presentation, Weems asks us to question the intentions behind these pictures and their dissemination. She enlarged, cropped, and tinted the images, then placed the prints in circular mattes that suggest the camera’s lens, emphasizing the acts of framing and looking. Finally, she overlaid the images with her own texts, which expose a long history of systemic injustice.

“When the work is presented in its entirety,” Roxana Marcoci, senior curator in the Department of Photography, notes, “the sandblasted texts on glass read like a somber poem. With the words ‘From Here I Saw What Happened’ on the first image and ‘And I Cried’ on the last image, Weems enacts a feminist voice that exposes pernicious racial stereotyping with the timbre of a poignant storyteller.”