If you cut it, they will come.
Apparently that’s the Museum of Modern Art’s new motto. Its latest exhibit, “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs,” closes at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 10. But before that, it’ll be available to view 24 hours a day now through 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 8.
All day. All night. Fifty-six hours straight.
Museum spokespeople say the exhibit’s hours are extended to accommodate the slew of art fans who have been lining up regularly to see the show.
“It’s really just because it’s popular,” says Sonya Shrier, assistant director of visitors’ services for the museum. “The work is just beautiful, and a lot of people enjoy it on different levels.”
Born in 1869, Henri Matisse became known for his minimalist approach to painting and drawing. During the last decade before his death in 1954, he began cutting out painted pieces of paper and pinning them on boards to make pieces that played with color and shape.
Matisse’s cutouts haven’t been in New York since 1961, according to a MOMA press release. They returned on October 12 for this show. And the cutouts were welcomed in NYC with an extremely warm reception. The New York Times called the exhibit “a marvelous, victory-lap show.” The New Republic said it was the “must-see exhibition this fall.”
By January 7, the museum announced that it had already received 500,000 visitors for the exhibit. Because of overwhelming demand, the museum extended the show’s run. What’s more, the museum pushed back its hours to 8 p.m. during two weekends in January, and MOMA reps promised the exhibition would stay open all day and night during the show’s final weekend.
“We’ve been asked, ‘Why aren’t you extending it longer?’ ” says Shrier. But in museum-land, two extra days can actually be hard as hell for curators to wrangle. “To extend an exhibition like this at all is a huge deal.”
First of all, MOMA has to get the legal approval from all the different galleries and private lenders letting the museum borrow the art — and make sure the art pieces aren’t already promised to other museums for those days.
Then there’s the preservation problem.
“There are a lot of conservation issues with how long a work is on view, that mostly has to do with [a piece’s] light exposure,” explains Shrier. Too much time under bright lights can eventually degrade the chemicals that make up any priceless visual work. “It’s only a couple days, but it’s also a lot of hours.”
A lot of hours indeed. Right now, a revolving door of Matisse-obsessed museum-goers are pouring in to the midtown art gallery. Since 9:30 a.m. February 6, the fans have been stepping into the gallery, where they’re given an unlimited amount of time to stare at pretty pictures made by a dead dude.
“You’re free to stay all night if you’d like to,” says Shrier. “You’re going to have someone who wants to stay and really meditate on it, and you’re going to have someone who wants to see it and go.”
After the rest of the museum closes at 8 p.m. on Friday and at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, the Matisse exhibit will remain open. Tickets that allow people into the show for selected times throughout the evening are selling quickly, and all the online tickets — which have scheduled viewing times when art appreciators can expect to be allowed into the museum — for Friday are already sold out. Shrier says that show tickets have been purchased for every time slot available, including three and four in the morning on Saturday.
There’s still hope for spontaneous art fans to see the show, though: The museum reserves a set of at-the-door tickets for the general public.
“The main lobby will be open. If you bought a ticket, you’ll walk in straight up to the fifth floor; everything else will be blocked off,” explains Shrier. “Sometimes we have a bit of a line. If you just show up to the museum you’re likely to get a timed ticket, maybe not for that slot, but probably for the next one. We want to make it as easy and accessible as possible.”
If you’re a member of the museum, you’ll also be able to waltz in to the exhibit at your leisure.
This isn’t the first time New Yorkers have gone bonkers for an amazing art show. In 2011, 24-hour film montage The Clock drew big lines of people to MOMA who wanted to see the video installation in person. And in 2013, crowds waited for hours to get into the famous Rain Room at MOMA. Many were turned away, but you can experience the Rain Room vicariously though this video: