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13 Best Artworks of the MoMa New York

The MoMa stands out for its great collection. I tell you which are the essential works that you cannot miss during your visit.

María Cano

María Cano

9 min read

13 Best Artworks of the MoMa New York

©Hellotickets

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) is, without a doubt, the world's most important museum of modern art. But with a collection of nearly 200,000 pieces, we run the risk of getting lost and ending the visit without having seen the essential. Here are the essential works so that you can make the most of your visit.

The MoMa boasts some of the most important works in history, and no wonder, since this museum temple houses some of the most outstanding paintings of modern art painters. It is difficult to decide which are the best works. For this reason, I recommend that you check the MoMa map before starting the tour to see which floor contains the largest number of works that interest you. To make your visit easier, I'll tell you that the most popular paintings at the MoMA are on the fourth and fifth floors.

1. Starry night, Van Gogh

Starry night by Van Gogh| ©Prawny
Starry night by Van Gogh| ©Prawny

StarryNight has been called Van Gogh's quintessential work. It has been in MoMa's permanent collection since 1941 and was acquired through Lillie P. Bliss Bequest.

'Starry Night' is an oil on canvas and was painted by Van Gogh in a studio on the first floor of the Saint-Paul-de Mausole asylum. The view has been identified as that of his bedroom window and he captured it in the painting at different times of the day: sunrise, moonrise, on sunny, cloudy, windy or rainy days.

This work is located on... the fifth floor and is the work that most visitors come to see.

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2. The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali

The persistence of Salvador Dalí's memory| ©Emilia Bolaño
The persistence of Salvador Dalí's memory| ©Emilia Bolaño

The persistence of the memory of the Spanish painter Salvador Dalí is also known as 'The soft clocks' or 'The melted clocks'.

This oil on canvas, which dates from 1931 and has been in the MoMa since 1934, is a surrealist painting depicting a subjective view of temporality. The technique is precise and the drawing academic, with pure lines. A curiosity: Dalí acknowledged that he was inspired by camembert cheese when making the painting.

This work is located on... the fifth floor of the MoMa.

3. Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Pablo Picasso

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso| ©Hugard Vanoverschelde
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso| ©Hugard Vanoverschelde

Las señoritas de Avignon was painted by Pablo Picasso in 1907 and shows, in cubist style, five Barcelona prostitutes in the street of Avinyó.

The painting was initially exhibited at the Galerie d'Antin (Paris) in 1916. Subsequently, Picasso kept it in his studio, until it was acquired by Jacques Doucet in the early 1920s and exhibited at the Petit Palais Museum in 1925. It was later purchased by MoMA and, to this day, is one of the collection's favorite pieces.

This work is located on... the fifth floor of MoMA.

4. Campbell's Soup Can, Andy Warhol

Campbell's soup can by Andy Warhol| ©Wikiart
Campbell's soup can by Andy Warhol| ©Wikiart

Campbell's Soup Can is a work of art produced by American artist Andy Warhol in 1962. Also known under the title '32 cans of Campbell's soup'.

This work constituted Warhol's first solo exhibition in an art gallery as a professional artist. The work consists of 32 canvases and depicts each of the varieties of canned soup that the company offered at the time. An exponent of pop art, it has become a world-famous image and has been emblazoned on numerous merchandising objects.

This work is located on... the fourth floor of the MoMa.

5. The Water Lilies, Claude Monet

The Water Lilies of Claude Monet| ©Wikipedia
The Water Lilies of Claude Monet| ©Wikipedia

The water lilies of the impressionist Claude Monet, belongs to a series of paintings that the painter made in the French village of Giverny at the end of his life.

These canvases are characterized, in addition to their large format, because neither the shore of the lake where the water lilies lie nor the horizon line can be distinguished in them. In fact, it is a close painting precisely because of this vaporization of the contours.

This work is located on... the fifth floor of the MoMa.

6. The Lovers, René Magritte

The lovers of Rene Magritte| ©Miguel Calvo Santos
The lovers of Rene Magritte| ©Miguel Calvo Santos

The Lovers by René Magritte, is located on the fifth floor of the MoMa, in the Richard S. Zeisler Collection.

'The Lovers', dates from 1928, and is the first work in a series of four variations. A disturbing image that does not leave visitors indifferent. There are different versions about the meaning. Some say that it shows a terrible memory of the painter, since as a teenager he witnessed the corpse of his mother being pulled out of the Sambre River with her wet shirt wrapped around her head. In fact, it is very common in Magritte's works the appearance of characters with their faces covered by a veil. It is also said that it can be a metaphor for desire, impossible love, forbidden love or past loves.

This work is located on... the fifth floor of the museum.

7. Gas Station, Edward Hopper

Gas Station by Edward Hopper| ©Sooluciona
Gas Station by Edward Hopper| ©Sooluciona

Gas Station, by Edward Hopper is a series of various gas stations seen by the artist.

The American painter was one of the leading representatives of 20th century realism. Even so, his pictorial work was not well received, both by the public and by the critics of the time, and he was forced to work as an illustrator to survive. It was after his death that Hopper began to be recognized as one of the great masters of 20th century art. Today, his work has become an icon of modern life and society.

This work is located on... the fifth floor of the MoMa.

8. Dutch Interior, Joan Miró

Dutch interior by Joan Miró| ©Claudia Maldonado
Dutch interior by Joan Miró| ©Claudia Maldonado

Dutch Interior is a series of three paintings made by Joan Miró in 1928 after a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands, where he was inspired by 17th century Dutch painting.

It is one of the most representative works in the creation of Joan Miró and is characterized by the search for the essential and a purification of the expressive vocabulary that characterized his previous works.

This work is located on... the fifth floor.

9. Self-Portrait with a Haircut, Frida Kahlo

Self-portrait with cropped hair of Frida Kahlo| ©Mercedes Tamara
Self-portrait with cropped hair of Frida Kahlo| ©Mercedes Tamara

Self-Portrait with Cro pped Hair is Frida Kahlo 's first self-portrait after her divorce from Diego Rivera.

The self-portrait represents the change in her life after the divorce. Kahlo is seated in the center of the work. She appears in a man's large, dark suit. 'Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair' was Kahlo's first work at MoMa.

This work is located on... the fifth floor.

10. One: Number 31, Jackson Pollock

One Number 31 by Jackson Pollock| ©Tresminutosdearte
One Number 31 by Jackson Pollock| ©Tresminutosdearte

Jackson Pollock 'sOne: Number 31 is one of the most prominent examples of his "drip" technique: an abstract expressionist drip-style painting, in which he dropped, dripped, or flung paint onto a canvas lying on the ground.

This painting, dating from 1950, is one of Pollock's largest paintings.

This work is located on... the fourth floor.

11. Bicycle Wheel, Marcel Duchamp

Bicycle wheel by Marcel Duchamp| ©Historia-arte
Bicycle wheel by Marcel Duchamp| ©Historia-arte

Bicycle Wheel predates Marcel Duchamp 's use of the word "readymade," a term he coined after moving from Paris to New York in 1915. This work, which represents the earliest example of this kind of revolutionary artwork, is located on the fifth floor and is considered the first kinetic sculpture. The artist denied that his invention had a purpose, although it is known as the first of his found art works.

This work is located on... the fifth floor of the museum.

12. The Love Song, Giorgio de Chirico

Chirico's love song| ©Miguel Calvo Santos
Chirico's love song| ©Miguel Calvo Santos

In The Love Song is one of Giorgio de Chirico's best known works, as well as an early example of the surrealist style, painted ten years before the movement was born.

In this work, Chirico wanted to express something of the reality he saw hidden beyond appearances. Shrouded in an atmosphere of anxiety and melancholy, the humanoid forms, empty architecture, shadowy passages and eerily elongated streets evoke the profound absurdity of a universe torn apart by the First World War.

This work is located on... the fifth floor of the MoMA.

13. Drowning Girl, Roy Lichtenstein

Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein| ©Amazon
Drowning Girl by Roy Lichtenstein| ©Amazon

Drowning Girl is considered one of Roy Lichtenstein's most significant works.

For this work, an exponent of pop art, which dates from 1963, he was inspired by the comic Run for Love! published by DC Comics in 1962. The work has been described as a "masterpiece of melodrama" and depicts a teary-eyed woman in a turbulent sea. In a "tragic situation," the woman is emotionally distraught, apparently over an affair.

This work is located on... the fourth floor of the MoMa.

How to view the MoMa collection floor by floor

View of the MoMa gardens| ©Hellotickets
View of the MoMa gardens| ©Hellotickets

The MoMa collection is divided into six floors. Below, you have the information of each of the floors, but I anticipate that floors 2, 3, 4 and 5 house most of the collection.

  • The second floor is used as a hall and is where the reception, ticket offices, restaurant, store, sculpture garden... are located.
  • The second floor focuses on the collection from 1980 to the present: special exhibitions, prints, illustrated books, audiovisual media. In addition, it also houses the store and cafeteria.
  • The third floor includes drawings, photography, architecture and design from various periods.
  • The fourth floor is where you will find framed paintings and sculptures from 1940 to 1980: Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Yayoi Kusama, Japer Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein...
  • The fifth floor houses paintings and sculptures from 1880 to 1940: Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Frida Kahlo, Piet Mondrian .....
  • The sixth floor is for special exhibitions and also houses a store.

Interactive guide to the MoMa

The entrance to MoMA includes an interactive guide that suggests some thematic itineraries, depending on the type of audience (adult or child) and according to the time you have available. This tool makes the visit much easier if we have limited time.

The traveler's tip

Our recommendation is to start the visit on floors 4 and 5, where the main works are located.

Recommendations for viewing the MoMa's best works without the crowds

Exterior of the MoMa museum| ©Hellotickets
Exterior of the MoMa museum| ©Hellotickets

1- Buy your ticket in advance: The MoMa receives a large number of visitors every day. It is important to book your ticket in advance to avoid waiting in long lines and wasting unnecessary time at the ticket office. The cheapest tickets for the MoMa are priced from 20 euros at Hellotickets and it is a perfect option if you want to avoid wasting time at the ticket office.

2- Check the map: It is advisable to check the map before starting the visit to see on which floor are the most works that interest you and start the tour of this area. You will enjoy it more if you see them at the beginning of the visit!

3- Go early in the morning: It is preferable to visit the MoMA early in the morning to have as much time as possible to enjoy the collection at your leisure.

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