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About The Met/ Collection Areas/ Modern and Contemporary Art
Alicja Kwade's Parapivot installation on the roof of The Met, with the New York City skyline in the background

Modern and Contemporary Art

The Modern and Contemporary Art department at The Met is devoted to the study, collection and exhibition of art from 1890 to the present. An era marked by seismic cultural, social and political shifts across the globe, artistic responses to these changes have shaped multiple modernities and diverse contemporary practices. The department is committed to foregrounding the interconnected and richly variegated narratives and experiences that inform the art of this period from around the world.

Historically focused on the art of Western Europe and North America, since 2012 Modern and Contemporary Art has greatly expanded and diversified its collections, especially through works by women and artists of color, with particular emphasis on acquisitions from Latin America, South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey, and African diasporas. Today, its holdings span a range of media, including paintings, sculpture, works on paper, design, decorative arts, and time-based media. The department presents rotating selections from its dynamic collections in its galleries and special projects throughout the museum.

The department’s robust acquisitions program is complemented by a variety of other activities, including special exhibitions, site-specific commissions by contemporary artists, collaborations within and beyond the museum, collections care through regular maintenance, cataloguing, study, and research initiatives, including the support of fellows and interns.

The Met established its Department of Contemporary Arts in 1967 under Henry Geldzahler, who along with co-curator Lowery Stokes Sims refocused the museum’s commitment to living artists. Initially confined to American painting and sculpture, the department’s collections grew in the 1970s to include art from Europe and later decorative arts and design. Twentieth-century art found a permanent home at The Met with the opening of the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing in 1987. The department, since renamed, has critically expanded the scope of its holdings and extended the spaces of its operation. From 2016 to 2020 it mounted innovative exhibitions at The Met Breuer and today continues to foreground the work of modern and contemporary artists from across the globe.

The department’s holdings have been formed through strategic acquisitions as well as generous gifts and bequests, including major private collections from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection to the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection. Particularly strong in modern design as well as French and American modernism, the department’s collection has expanded and diversified in recent years to more broadly acknowledge global perspectives (such as art from Hungary and Iran) and practices (such as those of Julio Le Parc and Mrinalini Mukherjee). Today, its robust holdings in painting, sculpture, and works on paper have been augmented by substantial and growing collections of international decorative arts and design, installation art, and time-based media.

See highlights of modern and contemporary art in the department's collection.

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