Favorite Pieces from the Museum of Modern Art: New on View from the 1880s-1940s

Works of the ingenious at MoMA, on view in its newest rotation of permanent collections.

The Wine Press

Arthur B. Davies The Wine Press, 1918

I did not recognize the work as being by an artist I knew, but I was taken by its seductive charm. When I look at this, I think ‘fruits’; turns out the artwork was titled “The Wine Press” and painted in 1918 by one Arthur B. Davis (American Artist). The styling of the painting has elements of antiquity brushed with modern painting, which make this painting feel both out and in-of time, in the most marvelous way.


This is perhaps the first time I’ve seen a Mark Rothko painting that was not one of his color field paintings. It caught my attention even before the name did. I marvel artists that have mastered composition. Rothko is one such artist.

Mark Rothko Untitled, 1945-46, Watercolor and ink on paper


Vasily Kandinsky Soft Pressure, 1931

A Kandinsky! It reminds me of what the celestial sphere would look like if its character was pulled out into various colors and shapes.

Penguin Donkey Bookshelf

designed by Egon Riss, and made of plywood. There are only 100 of these in its original production before its manufacturing was discontinued in wartime. I was so enraptured by the childlike and joyful shape of this Modernist shelving unit that I promptly went to 1stDibs to see how much damage it would do to my pocket if I were to buy it. There was none in inventory! The last time it was sold, was not of one of its original product, but of one that was licensed out to a different manufacturer (Isokon Plus) for reissuing in 1989.

Egon Riss Penguin Donkey Bookcase, c. 1939

3 Standard Stoppages

In 2021, I read Janis Mink’s (Taschen published) biography on Marcel Duchamp and his life as an artist (It’s a fantastic introduction into Marcel Duchamp’s mind and his artistic journey. I did not realize how much eroticism fueled the constructs behind his art). I’ve always been an admirer of Marcel Duchamp’s works, but I did not appreciate the prowess of his mind in its fullest extent, and it is through this reading that I understood how intelligent, provoking, and often witty the pieces he is known for were. At his time, he really did spark a mental revolution.

This renowned work, The 3 Standard Stoppages, subverts standard units of measure:

Marcel Duchamp 3 Standard Stoppages, 1913-1914

I was happy to see this artwork at MoMA in person.

As parting gift, here’s a spoonerism from Marcel Duchamp: “My niece is cold because my knees are cold”.

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