Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.”
Courtsey of MoMa.org
NEW YORK — Through the lobby thronged with tourists, the line for tickets, the line for the cloakroom, and the line for the ticket taker, up the narrow escalators, past the cafe and bookshop on the second floor, the photographs and drawings on the third, and the installations in progress on the fourth, we finally arrive at the fifth floor of The Museum of Modern Art.
This is where they keep the really good stuff — the paintings reproduced in framed prints and on postcards in the gift shop — giants of impressionism, post-impressionism, abstract expressionism, Fauvism, cubism and color field.
Step off the escalator, and we’re greeted by our first painting: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Glenn.” Press on. To the right is Balthus’s “The Street.” Hang one more left, and we’ve really arrived: Gallery 1. Staring at you or, more accurately, staring at the floor right in front of you, is Paul Cézanne’s “The Bather.” And just feet away, somewhere through that knot of cell-phone-camera-wielding museumgoers and just to the side of that hyper-vigilant security guard, is an image you’ll surely recognize: Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.”
The picture, of the view from van Gogh’s room in a French asylum to which he’d committed himself after mutilating his own ear, may well be van Gogh’s highest achievement. But “The Starry Night” — that instantly recognizable image, pulsating with the energy of nature — also goes by another, icier name: ObjectID 79802.
On GitHub, an online data and code hosting service, sits the entire MoMA collection: 123,919 pieces, including 1,656 sculptures, 28,411 photographs, 11,420 drawings, 1,936 films and — most important for our tour today — 2,229 paintings. One of the rows in this giant spreadsheet: ObjectID 79802.