The collection of art at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City is practically unrivaled. For those who love 20th-century painting, the museum is a mecca. In just one floor of the museum, visitors can spot work by some of the masters: paintings by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Vincent Van Gogh all live within just steps of each other. But not everybody has enough time to spend days just wandering around the galleries. For those on a time crunch, these are the top 10 must-see works of art in the collection at the MoMA.
Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory, 1931
Salvador Dalí‘s masterpiece, The Persistence of Memory, is a perfect example of what he liked to refer to as “hand-painted dream photographs.” The background for the jarring scene is based off the cliffs of Catalonia, Spain. And although many of the elements were plucked straight from the artist’s imagination, some art historians think that it’s actually a self-portrait of Dalí. Be prepared to wait to see this painting: It’s a lot smaller in real life than you probably imagined.
Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889
The Starry Night is, arguably, one of the most iconic works of art ever. Van Gogh (who was a self-taught artist) tried to capture the view out of his window in the south of France in this painting. The painting was out on loan for quite some time, but it is now back within the MoMA’s walls. You can check it out on the fifth floor in the museum’s permanent collection gallery.
Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907
No matter how you may feel about Picasso, there is no denying that he saw the world in a completely unique way. The Cubist master’s larger-than-life painting (which some consider his chef d’oeuvre) gets more and more interesting the more you look at it. Although the viewing area in front of the painting often gets crowded, hang out long enough and you should be able to get some private one-on-one time with Picasso’s demoiselles.
Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World, 1948
Andrew Wyeth‘s best-known work was painted in 1948 in Maine. The woman in the foreground of the painting is Wyeth’s neighbor, Christina, who was crippled by polio. In this painting, Wyeth wanted to pay tribute to the inspirational woman who “was limited physically but by no means spiritually.”
Roy Lichtenstein, Drowning Girl, 1963
It’s impossible to truly appreciate Roy Lichtenstein until you encounter one of his paintings up close and personal. Although you may think you know this iconic painting, your appreciation will go to a whole new level once you see all the tiny, intricate dots Lichtenstein used to create the “comic book effect.”
Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962
Everybody knows the symbol and everybody knows the artist, but not everybody can recall all the interesting differences that make up Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. Each can of soup in Warhol’s piece is actually a different brand and there are slight discrepancies in all of the different labels. Go see it in person and see if you can spot them all.
Henri Rousseau, The Sleeping Gypsy, 1897
Although this painting may look like it fits in perfectly with the art of the mid-20th century, Henri Rousseau actually painted The Sleeping Gypsy in 1897. The bright colors of the sky and the gypsy’s dress (and the fact that they’re still vibrant after over 100 years) make this piece a must-see in real life.
Henri Matisse, Dance (I), 1909
Henri Matisse was a painter whose works almost always seem to express joy—or at least wonder at life. His impressive Dance series is the perfect stop at the MoMA when you’re starting to get dragged down by all the art. Sit in front of this gigantic painting and revive yourself for the rest of the museum.
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, 1940
During her lifetime, Frida Kahlo was unstoppable. The progressive painter did not alter her vision to fit any standards—and she was always pushing boundaries. This self-portrait shows Kahlo as a masculine form (she had a penchant for dressing up in suits from way back), cutting off her hair and losing her femininity—perhaps losing her love, too, as the small stanza at the top of the painting may suggest.
Jackson Pollock, One: Number 31, 1950
Although many may react to Jackson Pollock‘s painting with something akin to “I could do that!” seeing one of the artist’s massive paintings in a museum setting could change that. Be sure to get as close as possible when viewing this one and try to imagine the painter walking around this giant canvas, flicking, dribbling and pouring paint to create this hypnotic swirl of colors.