The star power of the world's foremost modern art museum is set to light up the Art Gallery of WA from this weekend.
Masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and other modern masters are visiting Perth for the first time from the Museum of Modern Art.
MoMA director Glenn Lowry said the New York museum's collection was so broad and deep that it could spare the absence of 130 of the best examples of the artists' works in WA for six months.
Speaking at the State gallery yesterday, Dr Lowry divided MoMA's collection into the A-list, B-list and C-list.
"Every one of the works in this exhibition is an A-list work," he said. "They came off the walls of the museum to be here.
"When they come home - and I can assure you my trustees are eager to have them back - they will go right back on the walls."
WA director Stefano Carboni described the exhibition - the first of six MoMA touring shows over three years - as a very significant moment in the cultural life of WA.
Based on the thousands of pre-sales, Dr Carboni hoped to attract 100,000 visitors to the exhibition, which opens on Saturday.
Dr Lowry said the MoMA series was possible only because of his strong ties with Dr Carboni, a former curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan.
"Stefano is an old friend and great colleague and, were it not for him, we would never have agreed to lend so many of our cherished and important works of art here," he said.
Picasso to Warhol: Fourteen Modern Masters told the story of the evolution of 20th century art, Dr Lowry said.
"Across this panorama of the 20th century you can begin to understand some of the questions and arguments that many of the most important artists of the 20th century wrestled with," he said.
Asking him to choose a favourite artwork was like asking a father which child he preferred. "It depends on what day and what mood you are in," he said.