In the late 1920s, three progressive and influential patrons of the arts, Miss Lillie P. Bliss, Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan, and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., perceived a need to challenge the conservative policies of traditional museums and to establish an institution devoted exclusively to modern art. They along with additional original trustees A. Conger Goodyear, Paul Sachs, Frank Crowninshield and Josephine Boardman Crane created The Museum of Modern Art in 1929. Its founding Director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., intended the Museum to be dedicated to helping people understand and enjoy the visual arts of our time, and that it might provide New York with "the greatest museum of modern art in the world."
The public's response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and over the course of the next ten years, the Museum moved three times into progressively larger temporary quarters, and in 1939 finally opened the doors of the building it still occupies in midtown Manhattan. Upon his appointment as the first Director, Barr submitted a plan for the conception and organization of the Museum that would result in the Museum's multi-departmental structure with departments devoted for the first time to Architecture and Design, Film and Video, and Photography, in addition to Painting and Sculpture, Drawings, and Prints and Illustrated Books. Subsequent expansions took place during the 1950s and 1960s planned by the architect Philip Johnson, who also designed The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden. In 1984, a major renovation designed by Cesar Pelli doubled the Museum's gallery space and enhanced visitor facilities.
The rich and varied collection of The Museum of Modern Art constitutes one of the most comprehensive and panoramic views into modern art. From an initial gift of eight prints and one drawing, The Museum of Modern Art's collection has grown to include over 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural models and drawings, and design objects. MoMA also owns approximately 22,000 films and four million film stills, and MoMA's Library and Archives, the premier research facilities of their kind in the world, hold over 300,000 books, artist books, and periodicals, and extensive individual files on more than 70,000 artists. The Museum Archives contains primary source material related to the history of MoMA and modern and contemporary art.
The Museum maintains an active schedule of modern and contemporary art exhibitions addressing a wide range of subject matter, mediums, and time periods, highlighting significant recent developments in the visual arts and new interpretations of major artists and art historical movements. Works of art from its collection are displayed in rotating installations so that the public may regularly expect to find new works on display. Ongoing programs of classic and contemporary films range from retrospectives and historical surveys to introductions of the work of independent and experimental film- and videomakers. Visitors also enjoy access to a bookstore offering an assortment of publications and reproductions, and a design store offering objects related to modern and contemporary art and design.
The Museum is dedicated to its role as an educational institution and provides a complete program of activities intended to assist both the general public and special segments of the community in approaching and understanding the world of modern and contemporary art. In addition to gallery talks, lectures, and symposia, the Museum offers special activities for parents, teachers, families, students, preschoolers, bilingual visitors, and people with special needs. The Museum's Library and Archives contain the leading concentration of research material on modern art in the world, and each of the curatorial departments maintains a study center available to students, scholars and researchers. In addition, the Museum has one of the most active publishing programs of any art museum and has published more than 1,200 editions appearing in twenty languages.
In January 2000, the Museum and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center exercised a Memorandum of Understanding formalizing their affiliation. The final arrangement results in an affiliation in which the Museum becomes the sole corporate member of P.S.1 and P.S.1 maintains its artistic and corporate independence. This innovative partnership expands outreach for both institutions, and offers a broad range of collaborative opportunities in collections, exhibitions, educational programs, and administration.
MoMA has just completed the largest and most ambitious building project in its history. This project nearly doubled the space for MoMA's exhibitions and programs. Designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, the new MoMA features 630,000 square feet of new and redesigned space. The Peggy and David Rockefeller Building on the western portion of the site houses the main exhibition galleries, and The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building—the Museum's first building devoted solely to these activities—on the eastern portion of the site provides over five times more space for classrooms, auditoriums, teacher training workshops, and the Museum's expanded Library and Archives. These two buildings frame the enlarged Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The new Museum opened to the public on November 20, 2004, and the Cullman Building opened in November 2006.
To make way for its renovation and rebuilding, MoMA closed on Fifty-third Street in Manhattan on May 21, 2002, and opened MoMA QNS in Long Island City, Queens, on June 29, 2002. MoMA QNS served as the base of the Museum's exhibition program and operations through September 27, 2004, when the facility was closed in preparation for The Museum of Modern Art's reopening in Manhattan. This building now provides state-of-the-art storage spaces for the Museum.
Today, the Museum and P.S.1 welcome thousands of visitors every year. A still larger public is served by the Museum's national and international programs of circulating exhibitions, loan programs, circulating film and video library, publications, Library and Archives holdings, Web site, educational activities, special events, and retail sales.