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MoMA

MoMA RESEARCH FAQ

How do I find out about MoMA?

For questions about MoMA research that are not included here, please email library@moma.org, call (212) 708-9433, or fax (212) 333-1122.


Q. Is the whole collection on MoMA.org? How do I find out if a work is in the collection?

A. The online collection is selective. To check if a work (except films and videos) is in the collection, contact the library. For films and videos, contact the Film Study Center.

Q. How many works are in MoMA’s collection?

A. Over 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural models and drawings, and design objects, as well as approximately 22,000 films and 4 million film stills.

Q. How do I learn about a work in the collection?

A. Contact the relevant study center and the library. Each study center maintains basic information on works in the department’s collection. The library maintains relevant published material such as these print sources on subsets of the collection.

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Q. How do I find out if a work is currently on view?

A. Ask here or contact the library.

Q. May I see a work that’s not on view?

A. Please contact the relevant study center.

Q. May I view a film in the collection?

A. Please contact the Film Study Center.

Q. How many women (or people of color or particular nationality) have been exhibitied at MoMA? How many have works in the collection?

A. MoMA has not compiled this information. A good place to start is the Exhibition History List. Sources with limited information include the 1967 catalog Painting and Sculpture in the Museum of Modern Art, which indexes artists by nationality (as determined at the time); Modern Women, which addresses over 300 women in the collection, along with critical essays on the issue; and this list of women artists in the online collection highlights. For a 1971 report regarding “ethnic” art see Committee to Study Afro-American, Hispanic and other Ethnic Art.

Q. Who was the first woman to have a show at MoMA?

A. The first woman to have a solo show at MoMA was Therese Bonney in War Comes to the People: History Written with the Lens by Therese Bonney (1940). Other early shows include:

  • Josephine Joy: Romantic Painter (1942)
  • Faves and Places in Brazil: Photographs by Genevieve Naylor (1943)
  • Helen Levitt: Photographs of Children (1943)
  • Georgia O’Keeffe (1946)
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    Q. Who was the first person of color to have a show at MoMA?

    A. Implicit in this question are notions of “color,” “race,” and nationality. How does the researcher define these? What is meant by “person of color,” or “minority?”

    If defined as a person of African ancestry, the first solo show of a living African American artist was Sculpture by William Edmondson in 1937. Another early show was Paintings by Jacob Lawrence (1944).

    Some other exhibitions that may be pertinent to this question are listed below (these are from the Museum’s first fifteen years). Basic documentation of these shows is available at the library. For a full chronology of MoMA exhibitions, see this list. To learn about in-depth research, see How do I learn about past MoMA exhibitions?.

    For one artist's examination of nationalities and nationalism in MoMA's early history, see Fred Wilson's web project Road to Victory.

    • 46 Painters and Sculptors Under 35 Years of Age, 1930 (included Native-American artists and artists from Mexico)
    • Diego Rivera, 1931–1932
    • Persian Fresco Painting, 1932
    • American Sources of Modern Art (Aztec, Mayan, Incan), 1933
    • African Negro Art, 1935
    • The Work of Sharaku, 1940
    • Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art and Mexican Children’s Art, 1940
    • Portinari of Brazil, 1940
    • Indian Art of the United States, 1941
    • New Acquisitions: Latin American Art, 1942
    • Mexican Costumes by Carlos Merida, 1942
    • The Americas Cooperate, 1942
    • Art from Fighting China, 1942
    • Brazil Builds, 1943
    • Latin American Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, 1943
    • Bali, Background for War, 1943
    • Young Negro Art, 1943
    • Modern Cuban Painters, 1944
    • Chinese Children’s War Pictures, 1944

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    Q. How do I purchase an out-of-print MoMA publication?

    A. Try used book websites such as AbeBooks.com and Amazon.com. To find out if a MoMA publication is in print, see this list.

    Q. How do I obtain a reproduction of a work in the Museum's collection?

    A. In addition to images in the online collection, representative images from two MoMA collections (Painting and Sculpture, Architecture and Design) are included in the ARTstor database, available at the library and other research libraries.

    For information on publishing a reproduction of a MoMA work, see May I reproduce a work in the collection? and What does “fair use” mean?

    Q. May I reproduce text or photographs from a Museum publication?

    A. Please contact the Museum’s Publications Department.

    Q. How do I find MoMA annual reports?

    A. A full set of MoMA annual reports is available at the QNS Library. Reports from 1969–1998 are available in the Manhattan library reading room. No annual reports were published prior to 1936, or for 1943, 1946, 1949–1954 and 1956–1960. Full annual reports ceased in 1997–1998. Some annual reports were published in the MoMA Bulletin, found in print or in the Jstor database available at the library and other research libraries. For 1998–1999 and beyond, see the Consolidated Financial Statements. For 2007 on, see these recent financial statements.

    Q. How do I find out about MoMA's Circulating and International Circulating Exhibitions?

    A. Comprehensive records of the Circulating Exhibition Program and International Circulating Exhibitions Program are maintained by the Museum Archives.

    Catalogs, pamphlets, and ephemera from some of these exhibitions are available at the library. To learn how to find them in DADABSE, the library ctalog, see How do I find information about past MoMA exhibitions?

    For a general history of the International Program, see: The Museum of Modern Art at Mid-Century: At Home and Abroad (1994) and The International Council of the Museum of Modern Art: the First Forty Years (1993).

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    Q. What is the Museum’s collection policy?

    A. For a general idea of departmental scope, see the summary of each collection.

    For an historical overview of each collection (except Media and Performance Art), see the chapter introductions in Sam Hunter’s The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The History and the Collection (1997).

    For an in-depth account of the development of the Painting and Sculpture collection, see Kirk Varnedoe’s “The Evolving Torpedo: Changing Ideas of the Collection of Painting and Sculpture of the Museum of Modern Art” in The Museum of Modern Art at Mid-Century: Continuity and Change (1995).

    Q. How do I learn about MoMA exhibition design?

    A. Please see these published sources.

    Q. How do I find reviews of MoMA exhibitions?

    A. For some MoMA exhibitions, the library has a number of publicity reports compiled by the Communications Department between 1973 and the present.

    Reviews can also be found using periodical databases. Occasionally reviews are included in the library’s Archives Pamphlet Files.

    The Museum Archives holds comprehensive collections of clippings, most notably the Public Information Scrapbooks (1929–1970s).

    Q. How do I find film program notes?

    A. For notes from November 2009 on, see Inside/Out, the MoMA PS1 blog. For notes prior to November 2009, please contact the Museum's Film Study Center.

    Q. How do I find installation photographs?

    A. Most installation photographs are available through the ARTstor database, available at the library and other research libraries. Additional images are accessible through the MAID database, available at the library. Please note: images of permanent collection installations are incomplete. Ask staff for assistance.

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    Q. How do I learn about the Museum’s buildings?

    A. Please see Architectural Chronology, as well as this selective bibliography. For security reasons, detailed plans are not available.

    Q. How do I learn about past Museum exhibitions?

    A. First, consult exhibition catalogs (available in the library reading room) and related secondary sources such as press releases and independent reviews. Primary source materials are maintained by the Museum Archives.

    To find a MoMA exhibition catalog or checklist, search DADABASE by title. Example: pleasures and terrors of domestic comfort.

    For an exhibition with a common title, search by keyword for the title and museum modern art new york, or for the title and exhibition year. Results may not be exact. Example: claes oldenburg museum modern art new york.

    For a more precise search, check the exhibition history list for the exhibition number. Then search DADABASE by MoMA Call Number for moma [number] (omit letters).

    Example:
    From exhibition history list: 902a. Claes Oldenburg [MoMA Exh. #902a, September 23-November 23, 1969]
    Dadabase search: moma 902

    Results may include checklists and other supplementary material such as brochures, publicity reports, press kits, and Archives Pamphlet Files.

    If there is no exhibition catalog, the library may have checklists and other supplementary material.

    To find out whether a specific work was in a MoMA exhibition, contact the library for referral to the relevant department.

    Q. How do I find past issues of MoMA bulletins and magazines?

    A. For 1933–2002 see the Jstor database, available at the library and other research libraries. For 2002–2004 see the MoMA Members Pocket Guide, available in the library reading room.

    Q. How do I learn about the Sculpture Garden?

    A. Start with this press release and these sources. For security reasons, detailed plans are not available.

    Updated December 2011

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