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When great artists grow older…they create more great art!

The Long Run at the MOMA explores creativity in later years

Created date

March 2nd, 2018
Three different pieces from the MOMA exhibit.

Art display in The Long Run at MOMA through Nov 4, 2018

Pablo Picasso was considered a world-class artist when he was just a teenager. One art critic called Portrait of Aunt Pepa, painted when Picasso was just 14, “the greatest in the whole history of Spanish painting.”

When a young person accomplishes something extraordinary, the world takes notice and celebrates. But when it comes to creativity, youth and talent are only part of the picture.

While the wunderkind may hog much of the spotlight, many older artists continue to make significant artistic contributions in their later years.

Even Picasso continued to create significant works well into his 80s. In 1967 when the artist was 85, his iconic Chicago Picasso, a cubist sculpture created for the city of Chicago, was unveiled in Daley Plaza.

One of his later paintings, At Work, completed when he was 89, is currently on display in The Long Run, a new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City.

The Long Run shines a light on artists who are at the upper end of the age spectrum. And while so much of the focus of modern art has traditionally been on young, white male artists, this exhibition further broadens that point of view by including women and people of color.

Painters, sculptors, video artists, and photographers are represented. What ties the 130 works together is that the artists were all over the age of 45 when they created the work on display. Many were much older than that.


The exhibition literature says that when curators surveyed the art displayed in MOMA galleries covering the years 1885 to 1950, they found that more than two-thirds of the works were created by artists who were in their 20s or 30s.

Why was youth so heavily represented? The answer is the disruptive nature of modern art.

Each new generation sought to shatter the status quo. Young people were storming the castle, striving to leave their own imprint on history. They were bold. They took risks. With a lifetime of possibilities ahead of them, they had very little to lose.

They represent the beginning of modern movements like pop and abstract expressionism, and beginnings, especially successful ones, are hard to ignore.

The Long Run gives art lovers an opportunity to examine the work of masters who are less intent on shaking up the status quo and more focused on refining their own form of expression.

“Strong artists continue on to develop multi-decade careers long after their emergence on the scene,” says Ann Temkin, the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis chief curator of painting and sculpture at the MOMA. “An initial personal style is a springboard, which the artist may then choose to deepen, vary, or subvert. Careers assume all different shapes and rhythms. But our preference for beginnings leaves these largely unexplored in our collection galleries.”

The Long Run is an opportunity to explore those “largely unexplored” gems.

Georgia O’Keeffe

One of the exhibition’s highlights is by Georgia O’Keeffe. Best known for her flowers and landscapes of the American Southwest, her painting of a stark white form framed by bright blue edges is both familiar, and at the same time, hard to place. Stare long enough, however, and the image becomes recognizable. It is the Washington Monument.

The painting’s title From a Day with Juan II (1977) does nothing to illuminate the subject but the story behind the title is somewhat sensational. Juan refers to Juan Hamilton, a handyman who was just 27 when he began a 13-year relationship with the 85-year-old O’Keeffe. Hamilton later made headlines after the artist’s death when it became known that she had willed most of her $76 million estate to him.

Louise Bourgeois

French-born artist Louise Bourgeois, best known for her massive metal sculptures composed of discarded industrial machinery, is another female artist represented in The Long Run.

Bourgeois’s Articulated Lair, created in 1986 when the artist was in her 60s, is an environment to be explored. Black partitions make way for a door that visitors can pass through. Inside is a white “room” filled with hanging teardrop shapes and a small black stool.

The novelty of moving through the artwork rather than just observing it from a distance makes for a more immersive experience.

Bourgeois worked as an artist throughout her 98 years. When asked about her creative process, she said, “I am a long-distance runner. It takes me years and years and years to produce what I do.”


“The vibrancy of these artworks refutes the notion that creativity diminishes with age,” says Temkin. “They champion the reality that great artists never stop exploring and taking risks.”

The Long Run is on display at MOMA through November 4, 2018. For more information, visit