Fall time is a great time to get out of New York city and see what lies beyond the crowds and the city noise. MASS MoCA, in North Adams, MA, is a great example of a destination within a days drive of NYC. Last May, OHNY’s program coordinator, took a trip up north to see what this art museum had in store.

MASS MoCA’s home is a 19th century industrial building complex made up of 26 buildings that occupy 13 acres. A master plan for the renovation of the industrial complex into a space for contemporary art was completed in 1995 by Bruner/Cott & Associates.

The museum opened to the public in 1999. To see images of the transformation from factory complex to museum complex, you can browse through Nicholas Whitman’s photo essay.

Natalie Jeremijenko, Tree Logic, 1999

The mission of MASS MoCA is to be not just a site for the display of contemporary art but also seeks to “catalyze and support the creation of new art…”  You could say that the museum embraces its industrial history and promotes the production, not of manufactured products, but of creative ideas and contemporary work.

Federico Diaz, Geometric Death Frequency-141, 2010

The museum feels less like your typical art museum and more like a playground for artists who have taken over all aspects of the buildings. Frederico Diaz’s site specific installation is made up of 40,000 black balls that are mechanically produced by a robotic machine. The installation takes over the museum’s entrance and appears to spill out of the second-story window.

Katharina Grosse, One Floor Up More Highly, 2010

In contrast to New York galleries and museums, where space is limited and large works of art are problematic, the massive size of MASS MoCA’s galleries allows large works of art space to breathe. Katharina Grosse’s installation sits in a gallery the length and size of a football field.

Katharina Grosse, One Floor Up More Highly, 2010

Known for her colorful palette, Grosse used a spray gun to cover the soil and Styrofoam shards that make up the piece.

Katharina Grosse, One Floor Up More Highly, 2010

Grosse also sprayed the floor, walls and ceiling as part of the piece to create a chaotic, rainbow-like texture within the space.

Nari Ward, Mango Tourists (2011)

Other installations on view are works by Nari Ward. Mango Tourists is a work that was inspired both by the former industrial space of MASS MoCA and the island of Jamaica. Thousands of feet of foam adorned with mango seeds create the snowman like figures.

Sol LeWitt drawings

A major highlight at MASS MoCA is Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective. On practically permanent display (the exhibition closing year is 2033), this three-floor exhibition takes you through the 38-year career of the artist from his early black and white line drawings to his later color works.

Sol LeWitt drawings

Most of the works in the Sol LeWitt retrospective are on loan from the Yale University Art Gallery. The exhibition takes over all of building #7, which occupies a total of 27,000 square feet.

Sol LeWitt

The retrospective was designed with the help of LeWitt whose pieces are essentially written instructions that are then executed by others. The installation took 6 months to create with the help of over 70 assistants, students and friends of the museum.

Sol LeWitt drawings

MASS MoCA is about a 4 hour drive from New York City. If you leave early in the morning, a trip to the museum can be done in one day. Many of the exhibitions described above are still on display. See the current exhibition list to see what is on view before you go.

87 Marshall Street
North Adams, Massachusetts 01247


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