The Hidden History of the Museum of Modern Art

Museum of Modern Art New York City

Since its inception back in 1929, the Museum of Modern Art has been at the cutting edge of artwork and has been widely recognized as one of the world’s leading modern and contemporary art institutions. Not too many people, however, know the true story of how this vaunted cultural institution came to be the global icon it is today. Here’s a quick look at the hidden history of the Museum of Modern Art!

The origins of the Museum of Modern Art date back to 1929, when Abby Aldrich Rockefeller – wife of John, D. Rockefeller, Jr. of the wealthy and powerful Rockefeller family – and two friends established the museum as a way to showcase modern artwork in a prominent location for the public to see. The museum opened on November 7, 1929 in its original location at 730 Fifth Avenue. The museum recruited Albright Art Gallery trustee A. Conger Goodyear from Buffalo to become the burgeoning museum’s president while Abby Rockefeller herself served as treasurer. The museum was notable for being the first American museum to truly elevate modern art to prominence as well as the first in New York City to showcase European modernist artwork.

The museum, which prominently showcased masterworks by iconic artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, immediately proved popular and expanded quickly in its early years, moving to three new locations over the next decade. Notably, it featured an exhibition on van Gogh in late 1935, helping to spark renewed interest in the famed artist and increase public appreciation for his artwork.

In 1939, the museum relocated to its current position on 53rd Street in Midtown in a new, modernist building designed by architects Philip L. Goodwin and Edward Durrell Stone. It featured a successful exhibition on the works of Pablo Picasso from 1939 to 1940 and continued to greatly expand its collection and grow in popularity over the years. More recently, the museum has undergone a number of expansions and renovations. In 1983, it more than doubled its gallery space and undertook new expansion projects in 1997 and 2002. Currently, the museum is constructing an additional gallery on the former site of the adjacent American Folk Art Museum, capped by a 1,050-foot tall skyscraper known as 53W53.

For nearly a century now, the Museum of Modern Art has been on the leading edge of the world of contemporary and modern art. To this day, it continues to grow its collection and push the boundaries of modern artwork.

Photo Credit: Public Domain via Pixabay