When MoMa made the decision to allow free access to its Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden in September 2013, the decision drew quite a bit of ire. In this New York Times article from February 2014, Robin Progrebin asserts that the move was “partly to help mitigate its widely unpopular decision to demolish a neighbor, the former American Folk Art Museum, as part of its expansion.” Complaints included the fact that the half-acre courtyard wasn’t designed to accommodate large crowds, and that congestion would eliminate the refuge the garden was intended to provide. Additional concerns about maintaining the space’s integrity were voiced in Architect Magazine.
It was clearly a controversial move, but one might argue it was true to the spirit of MoMa’s rogue beginnings: an institution borne of three ladies (Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, wife of John D. Rockefeller Jr., and two of her friends, Lillie P. Bliss and Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan) who wanted to “challenge the conservative policies of traditional museums”, one that opened its defiant doors to the public only nine days after the stock market crash of 1929.
Hector Guimard’s Entrance Gate to Paris Subway Station
So on the one hand, there’s the side that imagines themselves the caretakers of art, preserving precious works for generations to come. They pay their admission fees, or better yet, become MoMa members, and receive unlimited free admission, access to Member Early Hours, discounts at the MoMa Store and a host of other benefits. They participate in and contribute towards the larger art ecosystem, somewhat like the …First Order.
Aristide Maillol’s The River, with Joan Miro’s Moonbird in the background
On the other hand, there’s the side who believes the artists would have wanted their creations to reach the widest audience possible. They contend that art is part of the public domain: it can inspire everyone and will contribute to a more creative, imaginative society. So these individuals come out, bright and early, and enjoy the world-class sculptures on display in the Sculpture Garden such as Joan Miro’s Moonbird and Pablo Picasso’s Monument, when they are offered up for free. They’re maybe more like the …Resistance.
So, which side are you on?
Use the entrance on 54th St, between 5th and 6th Aves
Sunday 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Monday 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Tuesday 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Wednesday 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Thursday 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Friday 10:30 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Member Early Hours: 9:30 a.m.–10:30 a.m. daily
For holiday hours, check their website.
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden is open free of charge daily, from 9:30 to 10:15 a.m., except in inclement weather and during maintenance.
Pair it with:
Coffee at Ralph’s
After you’ve pondered the meaning of Katharina Fritsch’s Group of Figures, stroll over to Polo Ralph Lauren’s flagship store on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, merely steps away. On the second floor you’ll find Ralph’s Coffee, their in-house cafe, which is a little gem that serves coffee and pastries with a view overlooking Fifth Avenue. The uber-chic, green-and-white space is perfect for a quick escape from the frenzied shoppers below. Just be forewarned: you might be tempted to pick up that $400 fisherman sweater you saw on the way up here.
711 5th Ave (at 55th St.)
Monday-Saturday 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
As always, holiday hours may differ, please call ahead.