In Season: Modern Art

See some of the best art of the past three centuries at these three museums.

No trip to New York is complete without perusing through some of its world-class museums, which, this month, are keeping things modern. Choose from a thematically curated array of early modern masterpieces at the MoMA, an in-depth exploration of one artist’s early works at the Guggenheim or an astounding rooftop installation at the Met. The choices are plentiful.

At the Museum of Modern Art, American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe explores quotidian life in the first half of the 20th century as reflected in American art (11 W. 53rd St.). The exhibit draws out masterpieces from MoMA’s standing collection and incorporates works of all mediums, including paintings, prints, photography and sculpture. Rather than presenting the works in chronological order, the gallery rooms are adorned thematically. There are Georgia O’Keeffe’s blossoming beauties as well as photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s stark nature shots. Compare Edward Hopper’s colorful landscapes of rural New York to the animated urban paintings of George Bellows. Reserve a few minutes to make it up to the permanent Painting and Sculpture galleries on the fifth floor to see famous works by Frida Kahlo, Marcel Duchamp, and, of course, Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night.

Uptown, make your way up the iconic spiral of the Guggenheim (a work of art in itself, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright) while viewing Robert Motherwell: Early Collages (1071 Fifth Ave.). In 1944, Motherwell described the papier collé technique – otherwise known as collage-making – as “the greatest of our [art] discoveries,” and became one of the first artists to revolutionize paper as an artistic medium. With a strong hand in the abstract expressionist movement, Motherwell was a close friend with Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, and their influences are visible: expect the collages to evoke more feeling than literal interpretation. But what sounds more relaxing than gazing at colorful, imaginative bursts of paper as you wind your way up one of the most famously designed museums in the world?

Few places in New York are as beautiful as Central Park in the fall, and few places are as ideal to see it as from the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi on view through November 3 (1000 Fifth Ave.). The first large-scale installation in the U.S. by the Pakistani artist, the ground of the roof is covered with a mural in deep, acrylic red paint. Despite its roof locale, the installation works on multiple levels. At first, the overwhelming red bursts visualize like bloody explosions, and Qureshi did mean for the work to speak politically – of bombings in Pakistan and, more recently, Boston. But up close, subtle etchings into the splatters of foliage, feathers and angel wings give the work a beautiful second identity, inspired by the lush gardens of ancient Mughal courts and the traditional artistic disciplines of painting them. Enjoy a drink and a snack at the Roof Garden Café while admiring the view of the red-foliaged tops of falls trees, mirroring the view beneath your feet.