The MoMA is in the midst of a massive expansion, adding extensive new gallery space. As part of this transition, many departments have shifted away from showcasing a reliable permanent collection with occasional exhibits to exhibit-based curation: rearranging the permanent collection thematically with frequent changes. Not quite special exhibits, but removing the permanence from a permanent collection (The Whitney curates like this, too). Not so this collection. Or at least less. Certain works are so fundamental not just to the museum, but to the history of art itself that they must be on display. If a work falls into this category, it is in this collection. The best of the best.

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.
- Vincent van Gogh

What You Will See

Regardless of how high your expectations are, you will be surprised at the depth of the collection. Name ten influential works of modern art and you are likely to stumble upon works by most of them. All the usual suspects are here: from Monet's Waterlilies to van Gogh's starry night, to a room dedicated to Picasso to Duchamp's readymades. An entire course of Art History could be taught focusing just on the pieces in this collection. Paintings are the focus, supplemented by modern sculptures large and small. Bring your audio guide: the context and commentary are essential.

Why You Should Go

This is why you came to the MoMA. Exhibitions come and go. Entire departments expand and contract. But the collection of work from 1880 to 1950 is as permanent and popular as the Met's Temple of Dendur or the Elephants at the Natural History Museum. Take some time to visit or revisit Starry Night or to contemplate Monet's impression of waterlilies, and then go explore to see what has been added. Enjoy the superstars and delve deep: the collection provides both experiences. If you don't make it out of this collection--as happens to many--don't worry: this is the best of the museum and you can always come back.