The Summer of Ugh

MoMA to close for the summer as it finalizes design overhaul

The new, glassy, and simple entrance to the museum on 53rd street is being promoted as more efficient than the existing entrance. (Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

The Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) and Gensler–led expansion of Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is inching closer to completion, and the institution today revealed a suite of new programming that will begin later this year. That is, when it reopens; the museum also announced that it will be shutting down from June 15 through October 21.

With 40,000 square feet of new gallery space incoming, the MoMA is hoping to shed its staid institutional status and get back to its experimental roots. A new 53rd Street entrance is on the way, as are ground-floor galleries that will be open to the public, which the museum hopes will more fluidly connect the museum to the street.

The westward expansion is building out through the site of the demolished American Folk Art Museum and into the base of the Jean Nouvel–designed condo tower at 53 West 53rd Street. With the expansion comes a reorganization of how MoMA will display its collection; the museum is moving towards a system of modular, rotating galleries with thematic, not material-based, exhibitions. Photography, painting, drawings, and other media will be shown alongside each other

The second, fourth, and fifth-floor galleries will still be arranged chronologically but will expand the museum’s Eurocentric focus to include modernist works from all over the world. Beginning on the fifth floor, patrons will find an early history of modernism, followed by mid-twentieth century work on the fourth, and contemporary art on the second floor and beyond. The MoMA is aiming to rotate the gallery spaces on these floors every six-to-nine months.

Cross section of the Museum of Modern Art

A cross-section of the MoMA expansion looking east on 53rd street. The double-height Studio on the fourth and fifth floors can be seen, as can the second floor’s expansion (represented by the red line). (Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

Choreography, performance art, film, and sound works won’t be left in the cold either. The new Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio, a double-height performance space, will open up to both the fourth and fifth floors. Stuart Comer, chief curator of the Department of Media and Performance, has promised that both established and emerging artists will be able to present “collection-responsive programming” therein.

On the second floor, the Paula and James Crown Platform will present an experimental place for visitors to collaborate and engage with artists, as well as each other. The museum will offer both in-house and partnered educational experiences daily.

When MoMA reopens in October, all of the opening exhibitions will draw from the museum’s existing collection to showcase the diversity of its holdings. According to Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA, the expansion will allow the museum to grow from showing approximately 1,400 or 1,500 pieces at a time to around 2,400. To cope with the constantly changing programming, the museum has promised that it will keep its website up-to-date on what will be on display when and where.

Cross section of the Museum of Modern Art on East 53rd Street

A sectional diagram of the new entrance and expansion. Yoshio Taniguchi’s 60-foot-tall atrium and Philip Johnson’s sculpture garden will remain untouched. (Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens, and the Modern will remain open during the summer hiatus. How can the museum cope with four months of lost revenue? A $200 million gift from the estate of David Rockefeller was announced this morning. In recognition of the pledge, the museum’s Board of Trustees has voted to renamed MoMA’s directorship position the “David Rockefeller Director of the Museum of Modern Art.”

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