Inside the Museum of Modern Art’s newly renovated Midtown HQ

The lobby of a museum with wooden ceilings, a shop below ground, and a mezzaning with black furniture. A sign on the wall on the right side of the photo reads “hello. again.” A
new, open lobby with a below-ground museum shop.

The 90-year-old institution will unveil its $450 million
renovation on October 21

For as long as the Museum of Modern Art has been an institution
(90 years as of 2019), it has been tinkering with the spaces that
it inhabits.

The museum was originally located in the Crown Building at Fifth
Avenue and 57th Street, and moved a few blocks southeast in 1932 in
search of more space. But it quickly outgrew that location, and in
1939, the first iteration of its current 53rd Street
headquarters—an Art Deco building designed by Philip Goodwin and
Edward Durell Stone—opened its doors. Subsequent additions and
renovations—by Philip Johnson, César Pelli, and most recently
Yoshio Taniguchi—expanded the museum’s footprint, to varying
degrees of success.

And now, the museum is about to reveal its
most ambitious revamp yet
: On October 21, MoMA will open its
expanded headquarters, which now takes up most of the block on 53rd
Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues. The museum has pushed
westward, opening more than 40,000 square feet of fresh galleries
in both a ground-up building (which rose from the ashes of the Tod
Williams Billie Tsien Architects-designed American Folk Art Museum)
and the base of Jean Nouvel’s supertall skyscraper next door.

The galleries aren’t all that’s been added, though: The
museum has also opened a new, expansive lobby—which has two
galleries that can be visited free of charge—as well as a
spacious gift shop that has been relocated below street level. A
wall of windows gives passersby a glimpse into the space, and is
intended as a gesture of “increased transparency,” according to
the museum.

A view into a gallery with paintings of Campbell’s soup cans on the wall, and a sculpture in the room. New
galleries are found in the museum’s David Geffen Wing.

The renovation was overseen by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in
collaboration with Gensler, and that team had the unenviable task
of knitting together many disparate spaces—the new galleries
(which are part of the David Geffen wing), the pieces of the
original Durell and Goodwin building, the lobby of the Taniguchi
building, the Johnson-designed sculpture garden—into something
resembling a cohesive whole. It is mostly successful, if slightly
overwhelming; a two-hour visit before the museum opened to the
public hardly felt like enough time to take everything in.

That’s largely due to the fact that MoMA has made more of its
collection than ever available to visitors. The collection
galleries, which are spread out across three floors, hold thousands
upon thousands of artworks; painting, sculpture, video, drawings,
and more all coexist, with a “general chronological spine”
(MoMA’s words) pulling it all together. Many of the museum’s
most popular pieces remain (Monet’s Water Lilies, Andy Warhol’s
Campbell’s soup cans, The Starry Night, and so on), but have been
augmented by the addition of complimentary pieces, or ones that are
meant to provoke discussion. An entire gallery is devoted to Pablo
Picasso’s revolutionary Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, for example,
and one of the pieces hung near it is Faith Ringgold’s
extraordinary American People Series #20: Die
—an abstracted
depiction of a race riot that’s thematically removed from the
Picasso work, but similar in composition. The juxtaposition is
striking, and a harbinger of what to expect as the museum tweaks
what it hangs in the coming months and years (pieces will rotate
out every six months).

A painting hung on a wall in an art gallery. The painting depicts a group of people who are painted in an abstract way, who are fighting. There is a black bench in front of the painting. Faith
Ringgold’s American People Series #20: Die is hung in a gallery
with abstract early 20th-century paintings.

There’s also a special focus on architecture and design in
this new approach to the collection: Several galleries are devoted
to various aspects of those fields, including “The Vertical
City,” an examination of skyscraper construction that includes
photos by Berenice Abbott, Hugh Ferriss’s architectural drawings,
and other ephemera. Elsewhere, building models of the Guggenheim
and a spec design of MoMA by modernist master William Lescaze
emphasize the importance of architecture to museums, and vice
versa.

Of course, there are misfires: The wayfinding in the new museum
is less than optimal, and it can be hard to get your bearings in
this enormous space. Some of the additions are a bit sterile, with
a look that’s vaguely
airspace-esque
. And unlike the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA
has always felt like a space that could be tackled in one visit;
that feeling is pretty much gone now, which can be good or bad,
depending on how you feel about being overwhelmed by so much art to
see.

As Michael Kimmelman said in his assessment of the renovation,
you wonder if all of this extra space will not actually help
alleviate the intense crowding issues that have plagued the museum
as the number of annual visitors has grown (it’s up to three
million now). “Expansions tend to bring larger crowds,”

Kimmelman writes
. “Transportation experts call the phenomenon
induced demand: The more lanes you add to a traffic-jammed highway,
the more cars will inevitably arrive to fill them.” It’s easy
to see MoMA going the same way.

Still, you should pay a visit, even if you’ve been to MoMA
plenty of times before—to see the building, yes, but to
experience the collection in a fresh way. MoMA director Glenn Lowry
said that the new design “allows us to rethink the experience of
art in the museum,” and it’s worth seeing how they managed to
pull that off.

MoMA will reopen to members this weekend, and to the public on
October 21.

A gallery with one red wall, and a large sculpture. Two
galleries on the first floor are open to the public, free of
charge. A
new staircase in the double-height lobby leads visitors
upward.An installation in a gallery with large steel boxes stacked on top of one another. Richard
Serra’s 2015 sculpture Equal occupies an entire gallery in the
new David Geffen Wing.An art installation in a large, open atrium with white walls. The
second-floor atrium, typically devoted to the work of one artist,
remains.An aerial view of a sculpture garden with trees. The
sculpture garden is largely unchanged.

Source: FS – NYC Real Estate
Inside the Museum of Modern Art’s newly renovated Midtown HQ