Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (2023)

Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (1)

Check out our guide to the best pieces on view right now at the world-renowned Museum of Modern Art in NYC

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Among NYC’s art museums, MoMA’s collection of 20th-century artworks is arguably unrivaled among other holdings, like those of The Metropolitan Museum Of Art or the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. MoMA, after all, has “Modern Art”right in its name, and beginning in 1929, it pioneered the acquisitions of masterpieces in Postimpressionism, Cubism, Surrealism and abstraction—not to mention Pop Art and works by leading contemporary artists. Though MoMA possesses works in all mediums, its horde of paintings takes center stage in its collection, as you can see in our list of the best paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

RECOMMENDED: A full guide to the Museum of Modern Art

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Best paintings at the Museum of Modern Art

Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (3)

1.Lee Bontecou, Untitled (1961)

In the macho scene of postwar American art, Bontecou was a rare female presence, but when it came to making tough work, she could keep up with the boys and then some. This piece is made with industrial canvas salvaged from a conveyor belt that had been tossed out on the street by a laundry located below the artist's East Village apartment. The glowering form—suggesting a wormhole into some dimension of Cold War terror, or an eyepiece from a gas mask—was achieved by stretching fabric across a steel frame.

Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (4)

(Video) Museum of Modern Art, NY (MoMA) – 40 Great Paintings (HD Collection)

2.Salvador Dalì, The Persistence of Memory (1931)

Dalì described his meticulously rendered works as "hand-painted dream photographs," and certainly, the melted watches that make their appearance in this Surrealist masterpiece have become familiar symbols of that moment when reverie seems to uncannily invade the everyday. The coast of the artist's native Catalonia serves as the backdrop for this landscape of time, in which infinity and decay are held in equipoise. As for the odd rubbery creature in the center of the composition, it is the artist himself, or rather his profile, stretched and flattened like Silly Putty.

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Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (5)

3.Willem de Kooning, Woman I (1950–52)

In the signature painting of De Kooning's career, the artist jokingly inserts an interplay between enormous eyes and breasts (strapped down here as if they might burst from the picture plane and smother the viewer), taunting us with the question, which would you look at first? The flurry of violent marks defining the figure could be easily read as misogynistic, but complaining about misogyny in New York's postwar art world is a bit like complaining that Rembrandt didn't have electric lights. With her verticality and frontal positioning, /Woman I/ seems enthroned: the regent of De Kooning's imagination.

Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (6)

4.Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (1940)

This gender-bending self-portrait by the celebrated Mexican artist and feminist icon was occasioned by her divorce from Diego Rivera—the muralist notable not only for his own artistic genius, but for his philandering ways. Kahlo had apparently enough of the latter, but as the painting indicates, she couldn't quite quit Rivera. She pictures herself in a chair, hair shorn, with her signature peasant blouse and skirt replaced by Rivera's clothes—effectively transforming herself into her ex-husband's likeness. Her locks, now scattered across the floor, seem to writhe menacingly around her, and she captioned the composition with the words from a popular Mexican love song: "Look, if I loved you it was because of your hair. Now that you are without hair, I don't love you anymore." Unsurprisingly, Kahlo remarried Rivera the following year, so this weirdly compelling painting could also be described as a monument to codependency.

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Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (7)

(Video) Five Must See Masterpieces at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) || Museums & Travel

5.Roy Lichtenstein, Drowning Girl (1963)

Lichtenstein's Pop icon is at once a coolly ironic deconstruction of pulp melodrama and a formally dynamic—even moving—composition, thanks largely to the interplay of the subject's hair (swept into a perfect Mad Men–era coif) and the waves (which seem to have wandered in from a Hokusai print) threatening her. The image, a crop from a panel in an early-’60s comic book titled Run for Love!, shows that Lichtenstein's in full command of his style, employing not only by his well-known Ben-Day dots, but also bold black lines corralling areas of deep blue. It's a complete stunner.

Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (8)

6.Kazimir Malevich, White on White (1918)

Though it was painted nearly a century ago, this painting's radical nature continues to astonish. Malevich's aim wasn't pure reductivism, though. Inspired by Russia's icon tradition, the early Soviet avant-gardist believed that the Russian Revolution had ushered in a new age in which materialism would give way to spirituality. He called his philosophy Suprematism, and /White on White/ serves as the supreme manifestation of the artist reaching for transcendence.

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Photograph: Courtesy Museum of Modern Art, New York, Succession H. Matisse/ARS
7.Henri Matisse, The Piano Lesson (1916)
  • Art

One of the artist's most personal pieces, The Piano Lesson shows Matisse's son Pierre at the keyboard. It's a composition about space, but also about time, as it echoes again and again the pyramidal shape of the metronome on the piano—in the band of green slicing across a casement to the left, and in the shadow falling across Pierre's face. He is set between two of his father's works depicting females, the matronly Woman on a High Stool and a small sculpture of a sensuous, reclining nude. More than a simple description of a family life, The Piano Lesson serves as a meditation on manhood, and one boy's impending introduction to it.

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Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (10)

8.Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

The ur-canvas of 20th-century art, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon ushered in the modern era by decisively breaking with the representational tradition of Western painting, incorporating allusions to the African masks that Picasso had seen in Paris's ethnographic museum at the Palais du Trocadro. It's compositional DNA also includes El Greco's The Vision of Saint John (1608–14), now hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The women being intruded upon by the small still-life at the bottom of frame are actually prostitutes in a brothel. An early study for the painting featured a medical student entering from the left to make his selection for the night, but Picasso wisely decided to leave him out in the final composition, leaving only Avignon in the title as a clue to his subject's origin: It's the name of a street in the artist's native Barcelona, famous for its cathouses.

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Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (11)

9.Henri Rousseau, The Sleeping Gypsy (1897)

Rousseau's career represents the first instance, perhaps, of a self-taught outsider artist who won the admiration of insider peers, though the road to recognition wasn't easy. The story goes that Picasso first stumbled upon the work of this toll-collector-turned-painter while it was being sold on the sidewalk as used canvas to be painted over. Since then, Rousseau's mix of dreamy naive figuration and exotic landscapes (all imagined; he never left France) has become indelible—never more so than in this painting, in which the juxtaposition of beauty and beast has an unearthly quality.

Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (12)

10.Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889

Probably Van Gogh’s most famous and popular painting, The Starry Night has inspired, among other things, a treacly 1971 ballad by the musician Don McClean. For most people, the swirling, cyclonic tone of the painting is a direct reflection of Van Gogh’s reputation as a turbulent soul. Indeed, he painted the scene while he was a patient at the Saint-Paul mental asylum in Saint-Rémy, where he sought treatment for depression and hallucinations.

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Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (13)

11.James Ensor, Masks Confronting Death, 1888

Known for paintings featuring masks and skulls, the Belgian artist James Ensor is often seen as a precursor of Surrealism, which is true up to a point. Though seemingly Surreal in the broad sense of the term, his work wasn’t concerned with dreams or the unconscious (which would later become Surrealist obsessions), but rather with the futility and irony of existence. Furthermore, his themes were rooted in direct observation, as the ghouls and goblins that populate his imagery didn’t spring from his imagination, but were based instead on props and costumes set up in his studio (a legacy of the family business, a small emporium that sold festive get-ups and souvenirs to tourists who came to Ensor’s seaside hometown of Ostend for its annual Mardi Gras–style carnival). Such a tableau is featured in this painting where the central figure, representing death, is actually a skull plopped on an arrangement of empty clothes. The same goes for the masked subjects crowding around grim reaper, who wears an elaborate lady’s hat, giving the scene an unnerving erotic undertone.

Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (14)

12.Andy Warhol, Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962)

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No Warhol demonstrates the artist's worship of glamour better than this painting, created the year Monroe died in an apparent suicide. It is the altarpiece in Andy's Pop Art church of celebrity. But by the same token, the work also speaks to Warhol's background as an observant Catholic; it wouldn't look all that out of place at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome or at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, where Warhol regularly attended mass (sans wig). The image is based on a publicity still for the film Niagara, in which Monroe played opposite Joseph Cotton as an unhappily married woman, plotting the murder of her husband.

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Best Paintings at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Right Now (15)

13.Paul Signac, Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon in 1890, 1890

Near the end of the 19th century, Impressionism’s spontaneous mode of painting gave way to Postimpressionism and its more methodical forms of expression. It was in this context that Pointillism emerged, and while usually associated with Georges Seurat, Paul Signac was another major figure of the movement. His best-known work is this exuberant—almost psychedelic—portrait of his friend, Felix Fénéon. An art dealer and critic, Fénéon is seen posed in profile against an abstract, spiral background that symbolically sets in motion the theories of Charles Henry—a mathematician, inventor and aesthete who took a scientific view of colors, proposing that rather than being blended, different hues should be treated as pure independent elements and kept separate from one another. His ideas underpinned Pointillism’s technique of applying paint as dabs of pure color that would mix in the eye of the viewer. Signac pays homage to Henry, while the painting’s long, grandiose title seems to spoof his empirical claims for art. Fénéon, meanwhile is portrayed as a magician, who, top hat and cane in hand, brandishes a white flower from which the pinwheel backdrop seems to emerge.

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    FAQs

    What is the most famous painting in the MoMA? ›

    The Museum of Modern Art

    What is popular in art right now? ›

    Abstract art is still the most popular style today, as it is the only style that a majority (54%) of respondents said they would use. The next two most prevalent types are contemporary and modern styles.

    What is the most famous piece of modern art? ›

    1. Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Cans, 1962. One of the world's most famous contemporary artworks is artist Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans. Symbolic of the Pop Art movement, the piece illustrates consumerist culture and mass media in American society.

    What is the number 1 famous painting? ›

    Mona Lisa, Paris

    It is no surprise that the number one painting on our list is the famous Mona Lisa. The enigmatic painting of the smiling woman painted by the greatest Leonardo da Vinci dates back to 1503 to 15019.

    Where is the starry night in MoMA? ›

    The ideal way to see Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night is in person, right in front of it, on the fifth floor of MoMA.

    Is Banksy in the MoMA? ›

    The artist, who goes by the name Banksy, has surreptitiously hung works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Museum.

    Does MoMA have a dress code? ›

    A business casual dress code invites you to be as stylish as the pieces found next door at MoMA. Ladies will want to don a skirt or slacks and gentlemen will feel most comfortable in a button down, though jackets are not required.

    How did MoMA get starry night? ›

    In order to establish Vincent's recognition in the art world, Jo strategically sold artworks to influential art collectors or well-known museums. One day, Jo sold The Starry Night to Georgette van Stolk in Rotterdam. Then in 1941, MoMA acquired it from her.

    What's trending in art 2022? ›

    The company's findings show that the most popular art styles in 2022 are expected to be abstract (54%), followed by contemporary (48%) and modern (42%) while 48% of designers indicating they anticipate an increase in use of sculpture.

    What are the current art trends 2022? ›

    In 2022, art and design trends such as virtual art exhibitions, VR and immersive art experiences, NFTs, crypto art, street art, contemporary African art and the revival of Memphis art will continue to grow exponentially.

    What is the latest trend in art? ›

    A return to figurative art is one of the dominant trends of 2022. Artworks with strong references to the real world are taking back the stage, particularly those featuring human figures, but also landscapes and still-lives.

    Who is the No 1 painter in the world now? ›

    1. Gerhard Richter. Gerhard Richter is at the very top of our list—the most famous living painter today.

    What is the most priceless piece of art? ›

    The most valuable painting in history must surely be the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Although it is considered priceless, we can determine some numerical value by looking at the insurance value of the painting. In 1962 the masterpiece was assessed at a value of $100 million.

    What is the most viewed painting? ›

    The Mona Lisa – 10 million per year

    Unsurprisingly, the most visited painting in the world is also the most famous portrait ever painted – the Mona Lisa. Created by Leonardo da Vinci at the start of the 16th century, it's valued at well over $660 million.

    What is America's greatest painting? ›

    The 15 Most Famous American Paintings
    • Nighthawks (1942) by Edward Hopper.
    • Freedom from Want (1943) by Norman Rockwell.
    • Christina's World (1948) by Andrew Wyeth.
    • Number 5, 1948 (1948) by Jackson Pollock.
    • Mountains and Sea (1952) by Helen Frankenthaler.
    • Campbell's Soup Cans (1962) by Andy Warhol.
    Mar 25, 2022

    Is there a Picasso at the MoMA? ›

    Picasso in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art | MoMA.

    Where is Picasso in MoMA? ›

    Picasso in Fontainebleau | MoMA.

    Does MoMA have Monet? ›

    With the new reopening of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the exhibition design team took it upon themselves to look at every detail in designing room 515, where Monet's Water Lilies hang, from selecting the Farrow & Ball hue Wevet No.

    Is the real Starry Night on display in MoMA? ›

    The Museum of Modern Art owns only three paintings by Vincent van Gogh, but they include its biggest crowd-pleaser: “The Starry Night,” which the Dutchman completed in 1889, shortly after having checked into a psychiatric hospital.

    Is Andy Warhol in MoMA? ›

    Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans is the signature work in the artist's career and a landmark in MoMA's collection. The 1962 series of 32 paintings is the centerpiece in this focused collection exhibition of Warhol's work during the crucial years between 1953 and 1967.

    Does MoMA have the original starry night? ›

    Starry Night. Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night has been a visitor favorite at MoMA since it first appeared in our Van Gogh retrospective in 1935 and then was acquired in 1941.

    Are Fridays free at MoMA? ›

    MoMA is staying open late on the first Friday of every month and admission is free just for New Yorkers! Our galleries are constantly changing to share new artists and ideas, and we want you to be a part of it.

    Can you bring a backpack into MoMA NYC? ›

    Please use sketchbooks no larger than 8.5 × 11″ in the galleries. Please wear backpacks on the front of your chest or carry them with your hand to the side.

    How much time should I spend at the MoMA? ›

    How Much Time to Spend. Most visitors should plan on spending at least 2 ½ hours at MoMA. Quicker visits can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on what you want to see at the museum.

    What is the big black thing in Starry Night? ›

    One of the most striking parts of The Starry Night is the curved, black cypress tree at the right of the piece. Cypress trees are commonly associated with cemeteries and death, and perhaps the prominence of the tree in the piece was intended to symbolize Van Gogh's depressed mental state.

    Why is Starry Night worth so much? ›

    The Meaning of Starry Night

    The painting features short, painterly brushstrokes, an artificial color palette and a focus on luminescence. It's this treatment that helps explain why it became so famous and why it's considered a great piece of art.

    How much is Starry Night worth 2022? ›

    The Starry Night original painting by Vincent van Gogh, painted in 1889, is estimated to be worth over $100 million.

    Who is the most popular artist right now 2022? ›

    The top global artists of 2022

    It's a three-peat for global recording artist Bad Bunny. The singer-songwriter is the year's most-streamed artist in the world on Spotify—a spot he's held since 2020.

    What kind of wall art is most popular? ›

    The Most Popular Wall Art
    1. Landscapes. Finally, we're at number one!
    2. Aboriginal Art. Coming in in the top two of our most popular wall art is Aboriginal art. ...
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    5. Beach Canvas Prints. ...
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    Nov 2, 2022

    What type of painting sells the most? ›

    Abstract Paintings

    Since most abstract artwork doesn't have a recognizable subject or relate to anything external, individual viewers can interpret an abstract painting for themselves. So it makes sense that abstract paintings are always top sellers.

    What is the most popular style in 2022? ›

    The biggest fashion trends of 2022 had us dressing (and feeling) like it's 2000 all over again.
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    • Balletcore. Assemblé. ...
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    What art is trending for 2023? ›

    Minimalist, earthy-toned palettes are gaining popularity in 2023 as they imitate the calmness and serenity we feel when experiencing nature or the outside world. Since bright maximalist color palettes can be visually overwhelming to some people, artists are taking a less-is-more approach to styling in 2023.

    What does NFT stand for in art? ›

    The term stands for “non-fungible token.” Like cryptocurrency, NFTs trade via blockchain technology and represent real-world commodities, such as art, real estate, avatars, memes, video game skins, and GIFs.

    Who is the richest artist alive? ›

    Who Are The World's Richest Painters And Artists?
    • One of the richest painters is Banksy. ...
    • The world's richest painters include Bridget Riley, the female illusionist. ...
    • One of the richest artists is of course Jeff Koons. ...
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    Who is the most valuable artist alive? ›

    1. Jeff Koons. Unsurprisingly, the most expensive American artist and the first on this list is the King of Kitsch, Jeff Koons. Especially since the sale at Christie's (New York) of his work “Rabbit” for the modest sum of 91,075 million dollars.

    Who is the most famous female artist today? ›

    Yayoi Kusama

    1929) is arguably the most famous female artist alive today. Yayoi Kusama is a contemporary artist known for her profuse use of polka dots and her extensive body of work which includes paintings, sculpture, clothing, art objects, performances, and installations.

    What is considered to be the most beautiful painting? ›

    Mona Lisa (da Vinci)

    Widely considered to be the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa has delighted onlookers ever since it was painted in the early 1500s by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting is named for Lisa del Giocondo, a member of a wealthy family of Florence.

    How much is the Mona Lisa worth 2022? ›

    Marca reports that as per Stéphane Distinguin, the CEO of the technology company Fabernovel, the Mona Lisa would be sold for nothing less than €50,000 million in 2022. In dollars, that's $53,729,008.08. However, another conflicting report claims that back in 1962, the painting's price was assessed at $100 million.

    What are the 5 most expensive paintings in the world? ›

    The Most Expensive Paintings in the World
    • Mona Lisa – Leonardo da Vinci. ...
    • Interchange – Willem de Kooning. ...
    • Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) ...
    • The Card Players — Paul Cézanne. ...
    • Number 17A – Jackson Pollock. ...
    • No. ...
    • Portrait of Marten Soolmans and Portrait of Oopjen Coppit — Rembrandt.

    How much is the Mona Lisa insured for? ›

    In 1962, the Mona Lisa was insured for $100 million, holding the Guinness World Record for highest ever insurance value in the art market (corresponding to $870 million in 2021).

    What is super rare art? ›

    SuperRare is an exclusive crypto art marketplace that bills itself as “Instagram meets Christie's,” and lists a curated array of digital artwork produced by prominent NFT artists and up-and-coming creators.

    What is the MoMA famous for? ›

    From an initial gift of eight prints and one drawing, The Museum of Modern Art's collection has grown to approximately 200,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, media and performance art works, architectural models and drawings, design objects, and films.

    What is the oldest painting in the MoMA? ›

    The oldest painting in MoMA's collection is “Landscape at Daybreak” by Odilon Redon, completed in 1872.

    Who bought the 400 million dollar painting? ›

    The painting was sold at auction for US$450.3 million on 15 November 2017 by Christie's in New York to Prince Badr bin Abdullah Al Saud, setting a new record for the most expensive painting ever sold at public auction.

    What famous art pieces are at MoMA? ›

    The Museum of Modern Art

    How much is starry night worth? ›

    The Starry Night original painting by Vincent van Gogh, painted in 1889, is estimated to be worth over $100 million. However, this painting is one of van Gogh's masterpieces and it can also be argued that there cannot be a price for it – it is priceless.

    Who bought the 110 million dollar painting? ›

    Estimated at US$60 million dollars, Maezawa acquired the painting for a record-breaking US$110 million dollars. This meant that Basquiat overtook his friend, Andy Warhol's US$105-million-dollar painting, Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster, 1963), as the most valuable American artist.

    Who is the richest painting in the world? ›

    This is a list of the highest known prices paid for paintings. The current record price is approximately US$450.3 million (which includes commission), paid for Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi ( c. 1500).

    How much is the Last Supper worth? ›

    In 1958 it was worth $59, today $100m.

    What were Leonardo da Vinci's last words? ›

    Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance icon

    Last words: “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.

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