From its inception, the collection of the Museum of Modern Art was intended to be as permanent as a river, according to its founding director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., “a testing ground for works of art which, over a period of several decades, would be given a chance to prove their claim to lasting value.” The museum’s “permanent” collection, in other words, has always possessed an element of impermanence. That evolution makes it fascinating to observe.
On the eve of MoMA’s twentieth anniversary, in 1949, The Art Students League News published a list of twenty-five League instructors whose work had been acquired by the museum. (Among the League’s current faculty, only two painters, Larry Poons and Ronnie Landfield, are represented in MoMA’s collection.) Marking its seventieth anniversary this year, MoMA reopens a stunning expansion with its curators vowing to incorporate underrepresented artists from its collection of 200,000-plus artworks. Will they succeed in upending the modernist canon? As we watch that project unfold, there are even more works by League-affiliated artists spread throughout the twenty-three spacious galleries on the fourth floor. Below is a digital gallery of some of these selected paintings and sculptures along with a few insights about art.