Past Exhibitions

Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction—The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift

October 21, 2019 to September 12, 2020


Almost five decades ago, Gustavo and I set out on a life journey that would take us to more places and more experiences than we would ever have dreamed possible. The journey had a clear destination, but not a clear itinerary. We wanted to do all that we could to help the world understand that Latin America was a cultural hub as important and vibrant as anywhere else in the world. Along the way we confronted a certain amount of resistance and negative stereotypes, but they only reinforced our conviction that education was the only way to change hearts and minds. We met many friends, allies, colleagues, and partners along the way, but MoMA, as the world’s canonic collection of modern art, was always one of the most important. Glenn Lowry’s vision to make MoMA a truly global museum was fully aligned with our vision, and together with our daughter Adriana, president of the Collection, we did all we could to support his efforts. With Sur Moderno, and the creation of the Cisneros Institute for Study of the Art of Latin America at MoMA our wildest dreams have become reality, and we look forward to seeing the artworks being appreciated and studied in their new home.

Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

About the Exhibition

Sur moderno: Journeys of AbstractionThe Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift is a major exhibition drawn primarily from the paintings, sculptures, and works on paper donated to The Museum of Modern Art by the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros between 1997 and 2016. On view from October 21, 2019, through March 14, 2020, Sur moderno dedicates an entire suite of galleries on the Museum’s third floor to the display of artists from Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Uruguay. The exhibition highlights the work of Lygia Clark, Gego, Raúl Lozza, Hélio Oiticica, Jesús Rafael Soto, and Rhod Rothfuss, among others, focusing on the concept of transformation: a radical reinvention of the art object and a renewal of the social environment through art and design. The exhibition is also anchored by a selection of archival materials that situate the works within their local contexts. Sur moderno is organized by Inés Katzenstein, Curator of Latin American Art and Director of the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Research Institute for the Study of Art from Latin America, The Museum of Modern Art, and consulting curator María Amalia García, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)–Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Argentina, with Karen Grimson, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Museum of Modern Art.

The exhibition is divided into two main sections based on the concept of transformation. The first section, “Artworks as Artifacts, Artworks as Manifestos,” presents a group of works that subverted the conventional formats of painting and sculpture. Cuts, folds, articulated objects, cut-out frames, and experiments that question the autonomy of the art object are some examples of these artists’ material explorations. One of the first works visitors encounter in the exhibition, Willys de Castro’s Active Object (1961), fuses the materiality of painting with the principles of free-standing sculpture, inviting the viewer to circle around a painted canvas. Another work in this section, Gyula Kosice’s Articulated Mobile Sculpture (1948), questions the grounds of traditional sculpture by combining strips of brass to create a movable structure that defies classification. The exhibition’s inclusion of Spatial Construction no. 12 (c. 1920) by Aleksandr Rodchenko highlights the influence of Russian Constructivism on South American art. Similarly, images of Piet Mondrian’s works were widely circulated and had a great impact on the development of abstraction in the region. His Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942–43), on view in the exhibition, inspired investigations of kineticism among artists such as Jesús Rafael Soto, whose Double Transparency (1956) is an attempt to transform the two-dimensionality of Mondrian’s painting into a three dimensional experience.

In the second section, “Modern as Abstract,” the language of abstraction is displayed as both a product of and a catalyst for the transformation of the artists’ surroundings. The geometrical principles of abstract painting carried over into the everyday, where artists and architects recognized one another as allies, leading to a shared operation and set of ideals. Here, María Freire’s Untitled (1954), for example, is displayed alongside archival materials and works from MoMA’s Architecture and Design collection, in an exploration of public sculptural projects and furniture design.

The final part of the exhibition is dedicated to the grid, one of modern art’s central motifs of experimentation. Gego’s Square Reticularea 71/6 (1971) and Hélio Oiticica’s Painting 9 (1959) are two examples of works in the exhibition that approached the transformation and expansion of the rational grid in different ways. Oiticica disrupted the strict geometric system with his rhythmically arranged rectangles, while Gego warps and deconstructs the reticular structure.

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Selection of Artworks

  • Alfredo Hlito

    Ritmos cromáticos III [Chromatic Rhythms III]


    Oil on canvas

    100 x 100 cm

    The Museum of Modern Art. Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund

  • María Freire, Untitled (1954)

    María Freire



    Oil on canvas

    92 x 122 cm

    The Museum of Modern Art. Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the LACF in honor of Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro

  • Alejandro Otero

    Tablón de Pampatar


    Lacquer on wood

    320 x 65.1 x 2.7 cm

    The Museum of Modern Art. Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the LACF in honor of Adriana Cisneros de Griffin & Nicholas Griffin

  • Lygia Pape, Untitled (1956)

    Lygia Pape



    Acrylic on plywood

    35 x 35 x 8 cm

    The Museum of Modern Art. Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the LACF in honor of Sharon Rockefeller

  • Lygia Clark

    Contra Relevo No. 1


    Industrial paint on plywood

    141 x 141 x 3.3 cm (55 1/2 x 55 1/2 x 1 5/16 in)

    The Museum of Modern Art. Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund

  • Hélio Oiticica, Neoconcrete Relief (1960)

    Hélio Oiticica

    Neoconcrete Relief


    Oil on wood

    96.2 x 130.2 cm (37 7/8 x 51 1/4 in.)

    The Museum of Modern Art, New York...


Slideshow: History of MoMA and CPPC



The New MoMA Is Here. Get Ready for Change, The New York Times, October 3, 2019

Una visita al nuevo MoMA, que reabrirá con más espacio para el arte latinoamericanoLa Nación, October 12, 2019

MoMA’s Expansion and Rehang Are Sumptuous and Smart—Now’s the Time for It to Take Big ChancesARTnews, October 10, 2019

El Sur llega al MoMA por finEl País, October 12, 2019

Curadora de Arte Latinoamericano Inés Katzenstein: la mirada argentina en el estreno del nuevo MoMA de Nueva York, Clarín, October 16, 2019

MoMA's Art Treasure, No Longer BuriedThe New York Times, October 17, 2019

Best Art of 2019The New York Times, December 6, 2019



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