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. 

Aug
17

Things to Do
Rockaway Beach Reopening

The Parks Department reopens Beach 96th to 98th streets this summer.

More Info
Aug
17

Museums & Galleries
Mirror, Mirror

Solo photography exhibition from artist Ryan McGinley.

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Aug
17

Broadway
Straight White Men

Classic American father-son drama set on Christmas Eve.

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Aug
17

Broadway
Gettin' the Band Back Together

A musical about following your dreams and, well, getting the band back together.

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Aug
17

Arts & Culture
Warhol, Basquiat, Haring and More

The Peninsula hotel celebrates its 30-year anniversary with an exhibition of works by prominent artists from the 1980s.

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Aug
17

Off-Broadway
Smokey Joe’s Cafe

Broadway’s longest-running musical revue returns to the stage this fall.

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Aug
17

Off-Broadway
Trainspotting Live

Immersive, in-your-face production based on the novel and film.

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Aug
21

Film & TV
Tribeca Summer Series 2018

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Aug
29

Museums & Galleries
Donna Gottschalk: Brave, Beautiful Outlaws

A documentary photo exhibit on lesbians in the 1970s.

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Aug
31

Broadway
Bernhardt/Hamlet

UK actress Janet McTeer takes on the title role in this look at the legendary 19th-century actress Sarah Bernhardt and her greatest role.

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Aug
31

Film & TV
Fordham Road Film Festival

Films screen for free in the Bronx.

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Aug
31

Museums & Galleries
Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection

Drawing from its own collection, the Brooklyn Museum has assembled more than 100 works in various forms for this exhibition that has been organized through a feminist lens.

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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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