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.
|MoMA normally has massive crowds. Not today.|
|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.