In the summer of 2009, in the final year of my undergraduate studies, I spent a month in New York with my sister. The MoMA was always going to be a site of pilgrimage. Throughout my sister’s studies at the art academy, she would come back home for the holidays and tell me about new artists she had discovered, from Brancusi and Giacometti, to Beuys and Bourgeois. I had only seen their works in books, but my sister’s passion had infected me.

The day we went to the MoMA, and I saw these artists with my own eyes, I felt something shift inside me. The ground gave way, and all I could do was to stand and stare, feeling terrified and excited at the same time. The room with Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon left the biggest imprint. I had learned about this painting’s role in the history of modern art in Simon Schama’s Power of Art, but understanding something intellectually, and then being overpowered by it aesthetically represented entirely different experiences.

Having studied literature for four years already, I don’t think I had ever understood the meaning of aesthetics up to that point. Surrounding the room of Picasso’s young ladies, other rooms stretched in every direction, filled with Chagalls, Van Goghs, Modiglianis, and Matisses. I remember running through them, elated, almost out of my mind. I am afraid to go back now. Nothing can quite measure up to that first experience of truly being affected to the core by art.

– Ivana Ancic (Ph.D. Candidate)