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Night at the Museum

Staying up late for MoMA’s round-the-clock Matisse exhibition

Author Janet Hawkins Illustration Luci Gutiérrez

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NEW YORK CITY – When New York City’s Museum of Modern Art hosted all-night viewings on the final weekend of “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs,” patrons might have expected the throngs to thin out a little, possibly allowing for a more tranquil encounter with the artist’s later work.

“In your dreams,” says Joanie, an artist who’s come here from Queens. At 3 a.m., she’s taking a breather on a bench, watching as crowds jostle past “The Creole Dancer,” a female figure that, according to a placard, “is both pineapple and plant.” Joanie rubs her face. “I was here last night, too,” she says.

In an adjacent room, two rugged men in flannel shirts—vacationing lumberjacks, perhaps—join a scrum of people gazing at the riotous “Parakeet and the Mermaid,” which Matisse created in 1952, two years before his death. “They just make me smile from ear to ear,” says a woman with an Indian accent. The two woodsmen nod in agreement.

As daybreak approaches, an elderly woman turns her attention away from “Memory of Oceania” and toward a large dust bunny drifting along the baseboard. “There are reasons,” she says, heading for the door, “that museums have occasion to close.”

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