Guide to MoMA PS1

Gillian Osswald

An abandoned public school lends both a name and a building to one of the country’s largest and oldest contemporary art institutions. Queens’ MoMA PS1, the Long Island City affiliate of Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art, transformed the space with site-specific installations exhibited throughout the classrooms, beginning with the inaugural 1976 group show, Rooms. Since then, the museum has continued to display art with an adventurous, transformative spirit while playing off its site’s origins. Stroll through classroom-size galleries and stairwells that have been converted into art spaces. The schoolhouse vibe even extends to the restaurant, which resembles a cafeteria, although patrons should expect elevated Quebecois cuisine from chef Hugue Dufour.

Instead of housing a permanent collection, the museum acts as an exhibition space, hosting an ever-changing array of works from experimental and emerging artists, in addition to a series of long-term installations. The variable contents of the galleries, as well as a rotating program of special events, make for a dynamic museum experience. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your visit.

How to Get There
E, M train to Court Square-23rd Street; G to Court Square or 21st Street-Jackson Avenue; 7 to Court Square

Address
22-25 Jackson Ave. (between 46th Ave. and 46th Rd.), Long Island City, Queens

Hours
Thursday–Monday, noon to 6pm

Admission
$10 for adults; $5 for students and seniors; free for kids under 16 and (until October 15, 2017) NYC residents

James Turrell: Meeting. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV

Highlights: Long-Term Installations

Fifteen installations are integrated throughout the museum, expanding upon the building’s original architecture. One of the most notable is James Turrell’s Meeting. This “skyspace,” which was commissioned in 1976, centers around a cut-out in the ceiling of an old classroom that reveals the sky above. The lighting system in the room enhances evening viewings, as it is synchronized with the sunset.

Sol LeWitt’s Crayola Square is a crayon drawing that recreates his contribution to the Brooklyn Bridge Event—the first exhibition by the Institute for Art and Urban Resources, as MoMA PS1 was initially known. The piece stands out not only for its dark color against a cinderblock wall but also for its location in a small basement alcove that makes viewing it feel a bit like uncovering a secret.

Saul Melman: Central Governor. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV

Central Governor, by Saul Melman, is also tucked away in the basement boiler room of the museum. The artist created this striking work by applying gold leaf to the building’s 112-year-old original furnace. A small section of the pipes and boiler, though, are only partially covered in gold, suggesting that even this monolithic object could be active, its transformation unfinished.

Ernesto Caivano: In The Woods. Photo: Tagger Yancey IV

Heading up the stairways of the museum is more than a functional move; it’s a reminder that the art here doesn’t always play by the rules. Four of the museums site-specific installations spill into the stairwells, including Cecily Brown’s Untitled, Abigail Lazkoz’ Cameraman and Stair Procession, by William Kentridge. Ernesto Caivano’s In the Woods covers Stairwell A with trees painted in black that climb the walls alongside the viewer.

Ian Cheng: Emissary in the Squat of Gods (live simulation and story, infinite duration, 2015)

Highlights: Temporary Exhibitions

These exhibitions are the current stars of PS1’s galleries, but they aren’t permanent. Explore them before they’re gone. 

Jan
20

Other Theater
Cuba Festival

Over a nearly two-week period, the Joyce Theatre turns its focus to the talents of dancers emerging from the island nation of Cuba.

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Jan
20

Off-Broadway
Dance of Death

August Strindberg's play exposing the conflicts between a husband and wife after 25 years of marriage feels contemporary despite being more than 100 years old.

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Jan
20

Museums & Galleries
Eric N. Mack: Lemme walk across the room

Rising New York–based artist Eric N. Mack holds his first NYC solo exhibition.

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Jan
20

Off-Broadway
Mies Julie

August Strindberg’s play reimagined by South African playwright Yaël Farber.

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Jan
20

Off-Broadway
God Said This

Five Kentucky natives are reunited through their individual struggles.

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Jan
20

Off-Broadway
Day Drinking: The Brunch Musical

A matinee musical about cocktails that comes with accompanying beverages.

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Jan
20

Off-Broadway
Alice by Heart

This new musical, set in WWII-era London, was inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

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Jan
20

Off-Broadway
Superhero

A new musical about the superhero who may be living next door in a New York apartment.

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Jan
20

Off-Broadway
The Trial of the Catonsville Nine

The Transport Group revives this 1971 Broadway play based on court transcripts regarding a group of activists protesting the Vietnam War.

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Jan
21

Museums & Galleries
Crusader

the inspiration, influence and legacy of MLK

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Jan
23

Museums & Galleries
Lucio Fontana: On the Threshold

The Met Breuer hosts a major exhibition of the works of Argentine-Italian artist Lucio Fontana, the founder of the art movement known as Spatialism.

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Jan
23

Performing Arts
BAM 2019 Winter/Spring Season

The Brooklyn Academy of Music kicks off its Winter/Spring Season in January, which goes through June.

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M. Wells Dinette. Photo: Jesse Winter

What else?

To fuel your exploration at the museum, be sure to stop in M. Wells Dinette. This eatery is styled like a pared-down school cafeteria and specializes in food almost as adventurous as the art. The menu changes regularly, but expect to encounter items like braised tripe and a steak tartare sandwich.

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Photo: Loren Wohl

MoMA PS1’s annual concert series, Warm Up, complements the gallery experience by holding shows within the outdoor sculpture garden. The series, like the museum itself, is committed to featuring innovative and up-and-coming artists. Hear acts like ASAP Ferg, Jackmaster and Actress on Saturdays (3pm) from July 1 to September 2.


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