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This post will provide information about planning a trip to the Museum of Modern Art, including tickets, best times to visit, tours, and even free admission.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was the first institution anywhere in the United States to devote itself exclusively to modern art.
In 1928, a group of wealthy philanthropists, educators and museum curators, including Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (wife of John D. Rockefeller), collaborated to realize their shared vision of bringing Europe’s finest modern art to American audiences.
The museum’s first exhibition was held in 1929 at the Heckscher Building on the corner of 5th Avenue and 57th Street.
The exhibit took up a modest six rooms on the 12th floor. On display were paintings (on loan from other museums or private art collections) by the European Post-Impressionists Van Gogh, Seurat, Gauguin, and Cézanne.
Its second exhibit in 1930 showed off homegrown talent featuring modern works by 19 American artists. By 1939, MoMA was at rapidly acquiring new pieces of art and growing in popularity.
MoMA’s famous Picasso retrospective of 1939–40, earned them international prominence. As the museum acquired more and more artwork, a larger space was needed, and the MoMA moved to its current site on West 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.
Over the decades, MoMA has held hundreds of exhibitions while growing its permanent collection of art from their first holdings in 1929 – a gift of eight prints and one drawing – to the over 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural models and drawings, and design objects they now own. MoMA also owns approximately 22,000 films and four million film stills.
Its permanent collection is widely considered the most impressive and diverse assortment of modern art in the world.
In addition to all of their exhibitions, they also have a sculpture garden. Installed and designed in 1953, it was dedicated to one of the museum’s founders – Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Located on the site where her townhouse once stood, visitors are welcome to see the sculpture garden for free every morning.
Highlights among the permanent collection are Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Monet’s Water Lillies, Dali’s Persistence of Time, and Andy Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe.
They also have several special exhibitions going on at any one time which are always impeccably curated and often cutting edge.
In addition to the main location, you might also want to visit MoMA PS1, an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art. They specialize in contemporary art, providing a space for new and emerging artists to show their work. This museum is free to visit with admission to MoMA. For more details, check our ticket information section.
The Museum of Modern Art has different entrance fees depending on age and other details. With that said, there are a few different factors to consider before purchasing a ticket.
Each ticket includes access to MoMA PS1, film screenings and special exhibits. If you download their app, you’ll also have the option to enjoy free audio tours explaining the history and significance of many exhibits.
If you buy your ticket online, you’ll have the opportunity to skip-the-line at the museum entrance. According to many reviewers, this is a great way to avoid waiting in line if you decide to come during a busy time of day. If you need to cancel your trip, tickets can be fully refunded up to 24 hours before your visit.
MoMA offers free admission every Friday night from 4 pm – 8 pm. This is a dream for those on a tight budget.
You cannot get Free Friday tickets in advance. You must wait in line, which forms at the Museum’s 54th Street entrance. Give yourself at least 30 – 45 minutes to get these free tickets in peak tourist season.
If you are an avid fan of modern art, you may want to splurge and pay full price. Below you will see ways you may be able to get a discount on tickets, should you prefer a less crowded experience.
Your Free Friday Night ticket gains you entry into all galleries and exhibitions. Film screenings are also free but must get a separate ticket for that. You will also be able to use your ticket to visit PS1.
Another free option is to take advantage of the free entrance to MoMA’s fabulous Sculpture Garden which is open to the public for free from 9:30 am -10:15 am except in bad weather.
Keep in mind, this does not get you into the museum. But the garden has a number of famous sculptures and is lovely in the mornings.
Be sure to also read our post on 50+ free things to do in NYC for even more ideas of free activities.
This section will help you to plan a trip to the Museum of Modern Art. In addition to details about the hours and best times to visit, we will also offer information on how to get here, how much time to spend at the museum and security requirements.
Hours of Operation
The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 have different hours. Depending on when you choose to visit, the hours of operation may vary.
It’s also worth noting that there are usually some events taking place throughout the year, including a musical event in the summer on Thursday nights.
MoMA PS1 Hours
Best Times to Visit
The Museum of Modern Art can get somewhat busy on most days, but there are times when you can avoid the crowds.
As you can see below, that on a typical weekday you can expect the museum to be less crowded from 10:30 am – 1 pm and then again from 3 pm – 5:30 pm.
This all changes on Fridays when they offer free admission. MoMA will be at its busiest between the hours of 4 pm – 8 pm on Fridays.
Unlike some of the other attractions in New York City, the Museum of Modern Art is actually pretty quiet during the weekends. On both Saturdays and Sundays, you can expect the same crowd size as you would during a typical weekday.
If you want to steer clear of the crowds, we recommend that you pass on Free Fridays and instead, purchase a skip-the-line ticket.
This ticket will get you inside right away, maximizing the time you will have in this world-class museum. Many reviewers indicate that this is a great way to avoid long waits.
TIP: You can actually take a before-or-after hours group tour which ensures entry at a time when no other visitors are allowed inside the museum. Check our tours section for more information.
How Much Time to Spend
There are a lot of different things to see at the Museum of Modern Art. If you want to see as much as possible, it will be important to set aside enough time for that. However, if you’re just interested in seeing a few of the more popular exhibits, it probably won’t take you as long.
Most visitors will want to plan on spending at least 2 ½ hours at MoMA. Quicker visits can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes depending on what you want to see at the museum.
According to the reviews, many people seemed to feel that skip-the-line tickets saved them time waiting for a ticket. Others reported short or no lines at all, but it all depends on when you go to the museum.
We recommend getting the skip-the-line ticket just to make sure that you won’t have to wait very long. Check our ticket information section for more details.
How to Get Here
MoMA is located in midtown Manhattan at 11 West 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. We recommend using the subway to get here.
Be sure to read our post about using the NYC Subway to help you navigate around the city easily.
TIP: The Museum of Modern Art is also located just a few blocks from several hop-on-hop-off bus stops.
When it comes to security, MoMA has some very simple and basic rules. Items up to 11″ x 15″ x 5” are allowed inside, but larger items up to 14″ x 22″ x 9” must be checked by security.
All bags can and most likely will be inspected before entering the building. Anything that is not allowed may be left for free in the coat-check room, but items larger than their maximum cannot be held there.
If you have bags that are too large to be accepted by the checkroom, you can find nearby places to leave you bags inexpensively for a few hours. See our post about Where to Store Luggage in New York City
You can bring your camera, smartphone, and other camera devices inside, but no video recording is permitted.
Still photography is allowed in some galleries and exhibits, but not all of them. Photos cannot be used for monetary gain in any way, shape or form.
Strollers are permitted at the Museum of Modern Art, but they are not allowed on the escalators. You can use elevators, however. Also, strollers may be restricted in some galleries.
This section will cover the different kind of tours you can take at MoMA. We will include information about audio tours, group tours, and guided tours. Some of these services are free, but others will cost a bit extra.
Viator VIP Tour
If you’re looking for an Early Bird tour, Viator actually offers a service called Mornings at MoMA. This is very similar to the before hours group tour offered directly by MoMA, but the advantage of this option is that you won’t have to gather 10 people for the outing and can instead pay for individual tickets.
Over the course of an hour, you’ll see and learn about some of the most beloved modern art in their collection before the museum even opens.
Reviews for Mornings at MoMA are very positive, and Viator has received an overall rating of 5 out of 5 stars for this tour (read reviews here).
Visitors really appreciate the opportunity to see the Museum of Modern Art before it opens and receive a private guided tour. Many customers suggest that this is the best way to experience the museum and that it is well worth the cost.
The Museum of Modern Art provides audio tours for several of their exhibitions and galleries. Although they do offer audio devices at the museum, the easiest way to take advantage of these free tours is simply to download the MoMA app onto your smartphone and bring it with you. If you use a pair of headphones or earbuds, you’ll be able to enjoy all their audio tours at your own leisure.
Some of these tours are aimed at children, giving parents an additional guide to help ensure that their kids have a good time. (Be sure to read our Things to Do with Kids in NYC post).
Other audio guides focus on visitors who have a limited amount of time to spend at the museum.
There are over 100 different audio tours to choose from, so chances are that you’ll find something which piques your interest and fits your needs.
In addition to their audio tours, the Museum of Modern Art also offers fully guided tours with professional art historians. This service is only available to groups of 10 or more, but it’s an excellent opportunity to learn a lot about the art on display at MoMA.
There are three different group tours available:
Early Bird Tour
After Hours Tour
Needless to say, the before and after hours tours represent a unique opportunity to avoid large crowds. Both options will allow you to see the museum at a time when no other visitors are permitted inside the building.