Treasures of New York

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Treasures of New York: MoMA

MoMA’s collection of approximately 200,000 priceless works of art represents a broad range of mediums from drawing and painting to film and performance. Treasures of New York: MoMA explores this storied collection, and features a behind-the-scenes look at the museum’s recent transformation, which was completed in October 2019.

AIRED: January 30, 2020 | 0:26:54
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>> For nearly a century,

one museum in the heart

of New York City has captured

the spirit of the modern age.

>> This one museum,

among our many treasures,

tells the story like no other.

>> A lot of people come

to the museum for inspiration

in their own work

and in their own lives.

>> When you walk

through our doors,

you will find something

that will make you think about

the world in a different way.

>> With one of the world's

finest collections of modern art

and contemporary masterpieces.

>> There's so much when you walk

into a gallery that you're kind

of swimming in it all.

>> Go behind the scenes and

witness the historic

transformation of this

monumental museum.

>> To move all of those works of

art and to know where each one

is at every given moment

is akin to a military exercise.

>> Come and explore the

centerpiece of the modern art

world in

"Treasures of New York: MoMA."

This program is made possible

by...

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It is considered one of the

largest and most important

collections of modern and

contemporary art in the world.

>> The Museum of Modern Art

is the Garden of Eden

of Modern Art.

It is the place that all of us,

first-time viewers and art

lovers, must return to in order

to commune with the ancestors.

>> As a New Yorker

and as an art lover,

MoMA, more than any museum

in this city, has my heart.

And I think it has become

the central institution of their

cultural existence in the city.

>> Situated in the heart

of Manhattan, inside this sleek,

glass-clad building,

the Museum of Modern Art

contains over 200,000 monumental

works by modern masters --

Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso,

Warhol, and a diverse group

of others who are on their way

to becoming icons.

Roughly three million people

visit MoMA each year,

where art in every dimension

awaits to ignite creativity

and spark inspiration.

>> They're looking for

familiarity, but sometimes

they're also looking for a

little bit of provocation,

something that's unexpected,

that kind of connects

with something that they

hadn't thought about before

and they see something in

a little bit of a different way.

>> And that's what a museum

can do -- it can be a platform

that enables those experiences

that we have around

an individual work of art

to become part of our collective

consciousness.

>> For the last 90 years,

MoMA has epitomized

The art of the present moment,

which museum director

Glenn Lowry says

requires constant change.

>> One of the fundamental

underlying ideas of modern art

is change itself,

breaking the tradition,

fracturing it, rethinking it,

challenging it, debating it.

And of course that means

we have to be a work in progress

because the art itself

is a work in progress.

>> This notion of change

extends to the museum itself,

whose physical structure has

evolved throughout its history.

And in the fall of 2019,

MoMA reinvented itself

once again with a $450-million

expansion project that utterly

transformed the institution

inside and out.

>> MoMA is an agglutination of

moments in time and histories

and architectures.

This was sort of

an amazing opportunity

to enter that succession

of architectures,

but with a new language

and also with a new mission or a

redefined mission from MoMA.

>> And that new mission --

to represent the diverse

voices and disciplines

in the art world today.

>> It's not just the square

footage alone, right?

Because you could have

100,000 more square feet

and not change anything.

But the expansion just afforded

the team here at MoMA,

my colleagues and myself,

to rethink how we wanted

to present not just

a history of modern art,

but multiple histories, multiple

narratives, multiple stories.

>> You can think about

women artists.

You can think of artists who

come from different geographies,

from Tokyo or Delhi or Kinshasa,

who have not always

necessarily been represented

in the collection the way

that they could be.

>> This progressive perspective

in modern art affirms

the institution's

founding principles.

>> So, the Museum of Modern

Art's mission is relatively

simple -- to make modern and

contemporary art as engaging and

accessible to the largest

possible public we can so that

we can create a kind of rich

conversation for those who are

interested in the issues and

ideas of what we think of as one

of the most vibrant moments

in the history of the world.

>> It's a moment and a mission

that began almost a century ago.

>> At the end of the 20th

century, what was very clear is

that the very idea of what

constituted "the modern" was

changing.

The idea of "modern" had to do

with, really, the notion of the

European avant garde and then

its impact on an American

avant garde.

So it was a very narrowly

framed, Euro-centric,

North American notion

of what today we would call

primarily European art.

>> In 1913, the first modern art

show of its kind was mounted

at the Park Avenue Armory.

It introduced Americans

to new movements, such as

Impressionism and Cubism.

The show was a sensation

and affirmed the nation's hunger

for modern art.

And so three enterprising women,

all passionate art collectors,

came together with a radical

idea of establishing a permanent

public museum in New York City

featuring the works of artists

who were practically

unknown here.

>> We were a rupture, if you

wish, with an existing tradition

to show the work of artists

like Seurat, Van Gogh, Cézanne,

and Gauguin, the four artists

that were part of our

first exhibition.

>> That first exhibition

of French painters

opened in 1929 in a rented space

on the 12th floor

of a midtown office building.

Despite such humble beginnings,

it wasn't long before

MoMA became a top

cultural destination.

>> This is one of my favorite

items in the archives.

It's the museum's

first guestbook.

I love this spread right here,

which is a four-year period,

from 1931 to '35.

But look at all the notables

who came to visit,

artists like Diego Rivera,

George Gershwin, Jean Charlot,

Henri Matisse,

Sara Delano Roosevelt,

Salvador Dalí, and my favorite,

second from the bottom,

Albert Einstein, within the

first year that he was in this

country.

>> The museum soon moved

to a stately town home

at 11 West 53rd Street.

While the location was ideal,

the museum's art collection

quickly outgrew this

six-story manor.

The building was demolished

in 1938, and notable architects

Philip Goodwin and

Edward Durell Stone

were brought in to design

a larger contemporary structure

for MoMA.

MoMA's new building

was celebrated across the

nation with a radio address

given by President

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

from the White House.

>> As the Museum of Modern Art

is a living museum,

not a collection of curious

and interesting objects,

the museum can enrich

and invigorate our cultural life

in every home by bringing the

best of modern art

to all of the American people.

>> With this decree, MoMA

set out and embraced

new creative formats.

>> Practices that sometimes

other museums were not thinking

of as high art and including in

the museum -- so, things such as

architecture, design,

typography, photography.

>> We very quickly began

to understand that we were going

to have to develop expertises

in all of these new areas

of artistic expression

and, in so doing, recognize that

we were different in kind

than most historical museums

that privileged

a very traditional idea

of what constituted the

so-called visual or high arts.

>> MoMA was the first museum

of its kind to have curatorial

departments dedicated to

photography, architecture,

and design...

and a significant first,

culling a museum-quality

collection of motion pictures.

>> There was no tradition

of collecting film, right?

Most films were screened

publicly, and then that was

the last time they were seen.

So, Iris Barry, who was my

predecessor as the founding

curator of film at MoMA,

was hired to basically establish

the practice of film

curating and film collection.

And so what Iris did --

she went out to Hollywood,

she went to Europe,

and she convinced producers

and distributors that,

rather than throwing away

or just putting on a shelf

their old films,

they should actually give them

to MoMA's new film archive

so that they could be circulated

and celebrated as works of art.

>> Over the years, MoMA has

amassed and preserved a treasure

trove of over 30,000 films,

including some of the earliest

movies ever made.

>> In many cases, that is the

original kind of camera negative

or what the artist

was actually working on.

And then we want to make new

copies of that so we then can

screen them safely while

preserving the best elements.

>> This forward thinking earned

MoMA an Academy Award

honoring the museum's commitment

to collecting and preserving

cinema for generations to come.

>> You cannot underestimate

the impact that MoMA has had

by including reproducible media

and by including

industrial design

and making, essentially,

more popular art part

of a broader discussion

about art generally.

>> Over time, MoMA's discussion

around technology and modern art

evolved even further.

>> With the digital revolution,

suddenly we had to understand,

how could we engage artists

who work online

and whose work was experienced

through the Internet?

How could we engage artists

who dealt with installations,

making it larger than ever

before or heavier than ever

before or more ephemeral

than ever before?

So, essentially, we're a

pluriverse that embraces as many

different forms of artistic

expression as we can,

knowing that those forms of

expression are gonna

continuously change over time.

>> In order to stay on

the cutting edge of modern art,

MoMA developed a unique

partnership with

PS1 Contemporary Art Center

in Queens that exhibits even

more avant garde contemporary

works.

>> They had retained this edgy,

kind of rambunctious side

to them, and I thought,

"Wouldn't it be great

if that was constantly at play

within the Museum of Modern Art,

constantly challenging us

to think differently,

to act differently,

to look at different groups and

kinds and types of artists?"

>> And that's been a wonderful

opportunity for the two

institutions to become sort of,

you know, siblings, if you will,

and to support one another

in our complementary missions.

>> MoMA's collection

is considered one of the finest

in the world,

serving as a reference guide

to some of the most significant

artistic movements

of the modern age.

>> The Museum of Modern Art is

the greatest collection of

modern art on Earth because it

has very few holes in it.

The Tate, for example,

in London is a great museum,

but they're pretty short of

a little movement called Cubism.

In other words, MoMA is

a specialty museum

that is also encyclopedic.

>> As the world's hub

for modern art,

MoMA drew in considerable

crowds, which meant catching a

glimpse of its popular shows

was not always easy.

>> There wasn't enough space

to look without getting an elbow

in the ribs,

and there wasn't enough art

that was placed on view

to look at anew.

>> So in 2016, the institution

set out to expand its midtown

campus and teamed up with the

same renowned architects behind

The High Line and

Lincoln Center.

>> It seemed like a very,

very exciting project.

One, we're very, very interested

in New York cultural

institutions because we are

citizens of New York and use

those institutions all the time.

And anything we can do

to improve them, to rethink them

is a great opportunity --

and especially for me.

I grew up at MoMA,

and I really want to see it move

in new directions.

>> The MoMA building is

something of an exquisite

corpse.

Every addition has started

at the end points

of the previous edition

and sort of drawn new outlines

and oftentimes reflected

certain aesthetic ambitions

of their day.

And our addition is no

different.

>> It was -- connect to

New York City and

Midtown Manhattan,

create better spaces

for people as they moved

into and out of the building

so it was more intuitive

and more pleasant,

and then bring on board

something on the order of

45,000 square feet of

new gallery space.

>> The architects first made

adjustments to the old lobby

of the original Goodwin

and Stone building.

The main lobby was then

further modified to feel

more welcoming to visitors.

Architects brought the museum's

store down a floor,

creating an open mezzanine.

A redesigned ticketing area

was strategically placed in the

lobby to connect brand-new

galleries on the west side of

the building.

Six stories of additional

exhibition space were stacked up

and combined seamlessly

with the existing galleries

to the east,

increasing the museum's total

exhibition space

by an overall 30%.

The designers also found ways

to honor the building's

architectural legacy.

>> We wanted to find ways of

synthesizing all of these pieces

of history into the new MoMA

without hiding their very

time-specific expressions.

One of the examples I could give

is the Bauhaus Stair,

and that's in the original

'39 building.

We brought that Bauhaus Stair

down to the ground floor,

but we changed the materials.

We slightly altered it.

And it was of the DNA,

but it was a new expression

of that stair, a new structural

expression.

>> In the summer of 2019,

MoMA had to close its doors

to complete the Herculean task

of re-hanging artwork

in every single gallery.

>> During this time,

6,000 works are moving.

Things are coming down.

Things are going back up.

So, that's just not

conservation.

There's our handling.

That's framing.

That's carpentry.

That's registrars.

So it's a big team effort.

>> To move all of those works of

art and to know where each one

is at every given moment

is akin to a military exercise,

where every action is plotted

out, reviewed, planned,

tested, stress-tested,

and then realized.

It's an incredible effort,

but it's also exhilarating

because this is the museum

in action.

>> As the works came down,

MoMA's staff had a rare chance

to thoroughly examine

its treasures.

>> Some of those works which are

iconic, very popular, and really

remain on the walls a lot --

this is one of our opportunities

to get them off the wall

and just check them.

It's like a health check.

Get them into the lab, look at

them, unframed them, see how

they're doing, and then prepare

them to go back onto space.

So, that's actually -- for us,

that's a really exciting moment.

>> It's really been

an extraordinary process

and, I can tell you, planned

with incredible attention

to detail and precision.

And so to be part of that big

team in this moment,

all pulling together towards

that moment of re-opening,

has been truly inspiring.

>> For the staff and the public,

that moment finally came

on a crisp fall day in 2019.

>> It's incredibly exciting

to be in the space now.

You know, you plan this for

years and then slowly the walls

get built and then slowly

the art goes on the walls.

Then you begin to imagine,

"What will it be like when

people start to come in?

Will it feel great?

Will it seem odd?

Will it be awkward?"

It feels alive in an incredibly

visceral way, and I am just so

excited about it.

>> One of the things

that we've tried to do

is to keep the overall structure

of the collection display

consistent.

So, you'll find the earliest

part of the collection -- that's

the 1880s through the 1940s --

on the fifth floor.

Then you move down to the fourth

floor, which covers the '40s

through the '80s...

and then to the second floor,

which is really the most

contemporary part

of the collection.

We're hoping that will be a way

for people to still feel

at home in the collection,

even though hopefully

they'll have the opportunity

to see lots of new things.

>> Visitors are invited

to explore MoMA's 62

collection galleries,

where they will find unique

juxtapositions of artwork

deliberately chosen

to spark conversations.

>> It's thrilling.

For example, MoMA took its most

important painting,

Picasso's "Demoiselles,"

and they've paired it

with a 1969 painting

by an African-American painter

named Faith Ringgold.

It shows a great conversation

through history how "isms,"

modernism, don't have to die,

that in the hands of women,

artists of color, others, they

can make modernism new again.

>> And in an effort to display

more of its esteemed collection,

MoMA plans to rotate different

artwork in and out of its

galleries.

>> So, our goal is to just

constantly change our galleries

so that, one, we don't fall

into the trap of looking as if

what's on display represents

the totality of the museum, but,

two, to make it interesting for

our visitors so that they know

that every time they come to the

museum, they're going to

discover something new and

different from the time before.

>> What's really,

really thrilling for art lovers

is that, yes, the Masters

are going to be there.

However, every six months,

as they've stated,

and it's a beautiful idea,

a third of the museum

will change.

So in 18 months, come on back.

It's a whole new museum.

It's a bit like your body

renewing cells

once every "X" number of weeks.

>> With its latest

transformation complete,

MoMA continues its mission

of immersing visitors

in the creative process.

>> We often think about the

museum as having this great

collection, but it's really --

the real product of the museum

is experiences with art.

It's art and people

and that combination together,

and the more people, the better.

>> The museum offers tours

and programs

so that people of all ages

and abilities

can enjoy the collection,

including those who are

unable to see it.

>> Just a few steps up this way

to get started.

>> The touch tour is a chance

for people who are blind

or partially sighted

to touch works of art from

our collection.

In a touch tour, what visitors

are doing is what everybody

wants to do, but nobody else

is allowed to do it.

They get a chance

to feel, directly hands on, what

an artist has created.

Their hands are picking up

things that only the artist

knew were there

but that can be

experienced through touch.

We, in addition to touching,

provide verbal descriptions.

>> This is the Madonna figure,

so a Virgin Mary figure.

She's standing with her

two hands raised together

in prayer right about

a little bit below her neck.

>> And those descriptions paint

a picture in the mind's eye

of the artwork

that's in front of them.

>> We use vivid,

detailed language to make these

works of art kind of come alive.

I'm just going to hold on to it,

make sure it doesn't fall.

>> I loved feeling the robe

and her body.

And just it was a wonderful

feeling -- her feet and her

hands, the way they were

praying.

I was able to see them

through the eyes of a lecturer

who's top-notch.

>> The PicassoShe-Goat

is a wonderful work to touch.

What's so much fun about it

is that it's a goat.

And they're noticing

all of the different elements

that Picasso has used to create

this female goat.

This back is actually

a palm frond.

Again, your eye might just

glance over, but when you stop

and when you touch,

you spend longer

with the work of art.

You have kind of this

new intimate relationship

with the work of art.

And it does present all sorts

of interesting realizations.

And they were actually

found objects.

>> I feel very privileged

to be able to touch a sculpture.

I mean, for so many years

of my life, not seeing very well

and not seeing detail

and then to be able to put

these gloves on

and touch something and realize

there's texture and intricacy

and there's indentations

and then things popping out,

and it's great.

>> Access and accessibility is

not something that's

accomplished.

It's something

that you're always working on.

There's always more to do.

>> Because modern art

is always evolving,

so, too, is the museum

that showcases it.

>> So I hope that we can be

a place that is both engaged

and exciting and energetic

but also a place of

calm thoughtfulness

and contemplation.

It makes us a more interesting,

more pertinent institution,

I think.

And it gives us

a newfound energy

to keep thinking about

how to be better at what we do.

>> The work is

never finished at MoMA.

As time moves forward

and new exhibitions

and new artists

fill its galleries,

the Museum of Modern Art

continues to inspire,

provoke, and provide

infinite opportunities

to see the world in a new light.

>> We are so privileged

to have it here

that almost all the art

you see now has moved through

on some level or another.

The world did become modern,

for better and for worse,

and this one museum

among our many treasures

tells the story like no other.

>> This program was made

possible by...

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