3.9.20

Aesthetic Thursday: First Time Back at the Museum of Modern Art Since Covid

That time I stepped into the Museum of Modern Art since it had closed (like all cultural institutions) its doors because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Greig Roselli visits the Museum of Modern Art in New York City shortly after it reopened at the end of August 2020.
MoMA normally has massive crowds. Not today.

Judd's series of parallelograms
A series of five parallelograms on view
in a special exhibition on the artist Judd.


"On my way to the Museum of Modern Art," I told my roommate. "Oh?" she said. As if I had just admitted to a felony. "Oh. It's cool. The museum is open now. Since yesterday. But they are only letting in a certain amount of people — and there are mad temperature checks at the front door." I went on and on, basically convincing myself it was OK to look at art during a global pandemic.

MoMA sits on a nice piece of real estate on 53rd Street in Manhattan between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Over the years, the museum has expanded significantly — and now, in 2020 — going there is like going to a museum version of a theme park. You can do a lot in one space — see a movie, grab a bite to eat but not now, because of restrictions still in place. You can see a mega-ton of artwork. It's incredible. And with the limited tickets doled out daily for admittance, it feels like the museum is all yours to cherish and to keep.

Museum-goers look aglow. In the elevator, the museum's design people have created beautiful markings on the door to denote physical distance. There is cute "modern art" style signage to don a mask and to take a helping of hand sanitizer. The greeters and guest attendants are happy to be back at work — you cannot work from home if you work in guest services. 

The top floor houses a temporary exhibit on the sculpture-cum-concept artist named Judd. I liked his parallelograms — only because I like saying that word. Makes me feel smart.

After lingering with old favorites, like Rousseau's "The Dream" and Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon," I sat outside in the sculpture garden. It was a beautiful day. People lingered too—everyone in masks or gaiters. The sun bright, but it did not feel hot. I read on my phone. Watched people — and I noticed that MoMA was devoid of tourists, of Europeans, of people from all over who flock to see its collections. It was mostly — if not at — a bunch of us locals — those cats who live here.

"I'm back from MoMA —" I told my roommate, but she listlessly nodded — she was engrossed in a television show — and had forgotten that I had done such a momentous thing. Going to a museum. Finally. But it was an interior triumph — a return to a routine that I had missed during quarantine. 

Coincidentally, I was tapped to teach a high school art history class to tenth and eleventh graders. So all my museum visits will have been worth it. Here's to me about to make that lesson plan. I will definitely tell the kids about my trip back to the museum.

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