Collection 1880s–1940s


The Vertical City

Oct 21, 2019–Oct 12, 2020


Berenice Abbott. Rockefeller Center. c. 1936. Gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 × 7 1/2" (24.1 × 19 cm). Anonymous gift. © 2019 Estate of Berenice Abbott
  • MoMA, Floor 5, 511 The David Geffen Wing

What would a city of towers look like? From its first appearance in the late 19th century, the American skyscraper fundamentally changed the shape and experience of the city. By the early 20th century, Europe’s avant-garde architects celebrated America’s bold conquest of height, and new building technologies prompted a competition across the Atlantic to innovate structural approaches and ever-greater transparency.

But challenging the scale of historic cities also sparked anxiety. These dramatic changes were radical—what if offices towered over churches? Artists began to represent the transforming urban landscape in new ways, creating a dialogue between the city and art making. Inventive photographers and cinematographers, for example, explored methods of capturing the sensory impact of the modern city’s expanded scale, accelerated pace of movement, and vertiginous heights.

Organized by Barry Bergdoll, guest curator, with Evangelos Kotsioris, Assistant Curator, Department of Architecture and Design.

22 works online


Installation images

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