The museum opened for a free viewing after a 2-year renovation. While much of the collection was on display at a former staple factory in Queens during that time, the $425 million reconstruction nearly doubled the museum's gallery space.
"I missed it," said Ellen Hofstatter, 55, who waited more than an hour to get in before heading straight for her favorite painting, Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night."
Many arrived hours before the 10 a.m. opening to be among the first to see the museum's collection of world class modern and contemporary art. At 10 a.m. sharp, the doors swung open to cheers.
Tad Davis and Susan Vosburgh, a couple from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary, received a lifetime membership for being the first new visitors.
Others waiting near the end of the long line of thousands said they expected the wait to be worth it.
"I would rather be at the front, but I wanted to come today because I am poor and can't afford $20 to get in," said Suzanne Velovic, 61, referring to the new adult admissions price, which The New York Times has labeled "an appalling and cynical figure."
Inside, museum director Glenn D. Lowry defended the new prices - $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and $12 for students. Many school groups will be invited without charge and admission will be free to all on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Lowry said.
"We have endeavored to balance our financial needs with obligations to run a balanced budget," he said. The increases are blamed in part on increased insurance fees and other fixed costs, Lowry said.
The museum's new design by Japanese architect Yushio Taniguchi retains architectural elements of the old building while transforming the galleries.
"I hope we have accomplished creating an entirely new museum, rooted in the old museum, where the collection shines as never before," Lowry said.
Dozens of visitors expressed satisfaction with the effort and the layout that groups most artworks are arranged in chronological order.
"They have improved the clarity," said Warren Walker, 60, while admiring Henri Matisse's painting, "The Moroccans".
Gaetan Gauvin, 54, a fashion designer visiting from Quebec, said he was last at the old MoMA 10 years ago.
"I've seen this art before," he said. "But this is new. It's wonderful."
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