I hadn’t known it was going to be there. I’d seen some incredible paintings as I went from room to room, darting between the other visitors to get close enough to observe the brush marks before standing back to take in the whole. I was thrilled that we were allowed to take photographs and took full advantage of this, snapping away with my iPhone, recording the theatre around me, my fellow patrons like actors in a show. And then suddenly there it was — Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon by Picasso, hanging on a wall. The painting i’d been obsessed with at school, the one I’d pored over in books, copying the faces into my own sketch book as I learned more about Cubism. It was bigger than I’d thought it would be. It was bold and beautiful and it blew me away, so much so that tears came and I let them leak out the corners of my eyes. The people around me must have thought I was nuts, but I really couldn’t help it. There is not much in this world that makes me cry, but that Wednesday morning I was moved to tears standing among strangers in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The same thing happened as I stood before Modigliani’s Recling Nude. Tears and a thumping heart. And a few quizzical stares directed my way.
I was already tired and overwhelmed by the tour, and my emotions were sitting pretty close to the surface. But there was something about being so close to these amazing works of art — created by human hands, cherished by so many — that touched me so deeply. The galleries were so quiet, people speaking in hushed tones, listening to their headsets as they walked around. It was like being in a church dedicated to art, and I truly felt the reverance that the paintings demanded. It was the only time during my entire stay in New York that I wished I’d been with someone I knew, so I could turn to them and say: aren’t people amazing? Look what we can do!
I absolutely adored the MOMA. Loved the art and the space and the food in the cafe on the 5th floor. I loved how friendly and helpful the stewards were, and how the museum let visitors use their cameras. This wasn’t the case when I visited the Guggenheim a few days later and it was quite comical watching the stewards (who looked like security guards) running up to people brandishing cameras: “No photos!”. It made no sense to me. Why was someone taking a snap with an iPhone such a bad thing? Surely art appreciation is to be encouraged, and if I wanted a crappy low-res shot of the Rothko to take home with me — a little memory to treasure, a bit of proof that I’d seen it! — why not let me? (I took it anyway. And yes, a man rushed over and told me off ;-)
The only place you were allowed to take pictures was standing in the atrium looking up at the (admittedly awesome) glass roof. Of course, i ignored this rule and took a few more sneaky shots as I walked round (and round) the building:
The Rineke Dijkstra retrospective (above) was fantastic and definitely worth the visit (a female photographer celebrated in a New York museum, no less. My heart soared.) And yes, the building itself is amazing and I’m glad I took the time to see it, though I might not go back, now that I have. The MOMA, however, will see me again, that’s for sure.
Does art (or music, or theatre, or any of the other creative arts) make you cry too?