Blockbuster Shows at MoMA: Matisse’s The Cut Outs and Robert Gober’s The Heart Is Not a Metaphor

Famous work of art 'Blue Nude' by Henri Matisse

It's blockbuster art show season again at the city's great museums, and so far MoMA seems to be the hands-down winner with not one but TWO big crowd-pleasers that are attracting both mobs of tourists (which are only going to get more mobby between Thanksgiving and New Year's) as well as locals, who would do well to go sooner rather than later. Actually, that's not true. The heavily-hyped Henri Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition filling MoMA's big sixth floor space is already jam-packed; the second show, Robert Gober's powerful The Heart Is Not a Metaphor which all but takes over the contemporary galleries on the second floor as well as the museum's main rotunda, is virtually empty of art fans. And, in my opinion, it's the more interesting of the two. Either way, though, you should make some time now and get to MoMA before the holiday insanity really kicks in. Here's what you can expect… 

Crowded lines at MoMA for the blockbuster Matisse exhibit, The Cut Outs

Henri Matisse at MoMA

I showed up at MoMA on a recent Tuesday afternoon to see Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, only to be told (after waiting on an interminable line at the front desk) that timed-entry tickets to the exhibition were sold out for the day. MoMA members can waltz in any time (and also have exclusive early morning viewings every day, if you're so inclined), but the rabble clearly needs to show up early or plan ahead. Forewarned, I went online and bought a Matisse ticket–which also gets you full museum access, of course–two days prior to my next visit, and so was able to join the masses. 

Matisse's 'The Heart' now on exhibit at MoMA

Introducing The Cut-Outs

The masses there definitely were. Even with the timed-entry system in place, these galleries were as crowded as I've ever seen. Thankfully, nearly all of the approximately 100 pieces in MoMA's Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs are 1. simple, graphic, and bold; and/or 2. really, really big. So I could see it all even when spectators were two and three deep in front of certain works. As far as the art itself, if you enjoy Matisse's cut-outs, you're going to love this show. Or maybe, like New York Magazine's Jerry Saltz, you will go in a skeptic and be completely won over. That neither experience happened to me should not discourage you (and your out-of-town visitors) from attending. 

Matisse's mural of colorful seaweed on-view at MoMA through February 8th

Robert Gober's The Heart Is Not a Metaphor 

After fighting the crowds upstairs, Robert Gober's The Heart Is Not a Metaphor show feels blissfully empty. Not of art–there's plenty of that, with some 130 different pieces–but of people. Maybe it's because the galleries' entrances are partially obscured by Gober's stunning "house", which takes up most of the museum's rotunda, though looks like a project under-construction from the outside. Or maybe its just that people don't care to see sculptural pieces that make use of human hair? Whatever, my suggestion is that you don't pass by this witty, sharp, at times surprisingly moving exhibition, filled as it is with meticulously recreated domestic objects (and, um, legs of people), all with some sort of telling, often painful twist. Despite the exhibition's title, there are a wealth of metaphors on display here, most delivered to potent effect. 

Robert Gober's 'The Heart Is Not a Metaphor' at MoMA

For Tickets and More Information about MoMA

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs will be at MoMA through February 8; Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor will be up through January 18. For MoMA hours, exhibition information, and advance ticketing, check out the official MoMA website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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