Enroll in Seven Free Courses From the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA): “Modern Art & Ideas,” “Seeing Through Photographs” & “Fashion as Design” Start Today

If you would like to know more about modern art, but have difficulty wrapping your head around the Futurists, Neo-Impressionists, Abstract Expressionists, and the myriad other -ists and -isms  of this vast subject, perhaps you should untether yourself from timelines.

Modern Art & Ideas, a free online course from the Museum of Modern Art (aka MoMA), shifts the focus away from period and movement, instead grouping works according to four themes: Places & Spaces, Art & Identity, Transforming Everyday Objects, and Art & Society.

It’s an approach that’s worked well for MoMA’s Education Department. (Another upcoming online class, Art & Ideas: Teaching with Themes, is recommended for professional educators looking to develop the pedagogical skills the department employs to get visitors to engage with the art.)

The course, which begins today, is taught by Lisa Mazzola, Assistant Director of the museum’s School and Teacher Programs and a veteran of their previous forays into Massive Open Online Courses.

An early lesson on how artists capture environments considers three works: Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889), Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-43), and Gordon Matta-Clark’s Bingo. Vintage photos and footage conspire with period music to whisk students to the settings that inspired these works—a bucolic French mental hospital, New York City’s bustling, WWII-era Times Square, and a derelict house in down on its luck Niagara Falls.

Regular readers of Open Culture are likely to have a handle on some of the ways art stars Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol explored identity, the course's third week theme, but what about Glenn Ligon, a living African American conceptual artist?

Ligon may not have the renown or tote bag appeal of his lessonmates, but his 1993 series, Runaways, is powerful enough to hold its own against Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair and Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe.

In fact, teachers looking to expand their Black History Month curriculum could spark some lively discussions by showing students the extremely accurate facsimiles of 19th-century runaway slave ads featuring physical descriptions of Ligon, solicited from friends who'd been told they were supplying details for a hypothetical Missing Person poster.

Ligon’s series is also a good starting place for discussing conceptual art with a friend who thinks  conceptual art is best defined as White Cow in a Snowstorm.

Offered on Coursera, the 5-week course requires approximately 2 hours of study and one quiz per week. Enroll here, or browse MoMAs other current offerings also on Coursera:

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Coursera. If readers enroll in certain Coursera courses, it helps support Open Culture.

Related Content:

The Tree of Modern Art: Elegant Drawing Visualizes the Development of Modern Art from Delacroix to Dalí (1940)

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Puts Online 75,000 Works of Modern Art

What to Say When You Don’t Understand Contemporary Art? A New Short Film, “Masterpiece,” Has Helpful Suggestions

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.


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