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MoMA to Close for Four Months During Major Renovations

The museum will reopen with an additional 40,000 square feet of gallery space and a new, more inclusive approach to displaying contemporary art

North/south section-perspective through the new gallery spaces at The Museum of Modern Art, looking east along Fifty-third Street. (2017 Diller Scofidio + Renfro)
smithsonian.com

The Museum of Modern Art is among the heavy hitters of New York’s museum scene, drawing millions of visitors to its vast collections. But the iconic institution has announced that it will shut its doors for four months, allowing it to put the finishing touches on a major expansion that will reinvigorate its displays of modern and contemporary art.

As Robin Pogrebin reports for the New York Times, the MoMA will be closed between June 15 and October 21 of this year. Two hefty donations—$100 million from the entertainment mogul David Geffen and more than $200 million from the estate of philanthropist and banker David Rockefeller—are helping make up for the loss of revenue that comes with shutting down during the summer tourist season. The museum is expanding into the lot once occupied by the American Folk Art Museum; when it reopens its doors, the MoMa will encompass an additional 40,000 square feet of gallery space.

Among the planned features for the expansion are a new education platform, a studio for live performances and programming, and street-level galleries that are free to the public. According to Sarah Cascone of artnet News, the new iteration of the museum will also have room to display an additional 1,000 artworks—as many as 2,500 in total. And the MoMA is overhauling its approach to showcasing these artworks, in an effort to revive its original mission to function as an experimental art space.

“As the collection grew greater and greater over the decades, it began to seem the opposite of experimental,” chief curator Ann Temkin said at an event revealing the expansion plans, Cascone reports. “It began to seem iconic, and authoritative, and maybe even doctrinaire.”

So while major attractions—like Monet’s "Water Lillies" and Van Gogh’s "Starry Night"—will still be on view, they might feature in different contexts. One new exhibition, for instance, will position Impressionist works alongside early films. More generally, the MoMA plans to stop dividing works according to media; paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs and architecture will share the same spaces. A selection of the galleries will rotate every six to nine months, giving the museum an opportunity to display a diverse range of pieces from its collections.

Chief among the MoMA’s goals for its upgraded venue is to showcase more works by women, African American, Asian and Latino artists. The MoMA has launched a partnership with the Studio Museum in Harlem, which is currently closed for its own renovations, to collaborate on exhibitions. A summer show is being planned for the MoMA PS1 location in Queens; the first “Studio Museum at MoMA” exhibition at the MoMA’s expanded Manhattan location will highlight the work of Michael Armitage, a Kenyan figurative artist. A survey of Latin American art is also scheduled for the reopening, as is a show by Betye Saar, a 92-year-old African American artist whose work draws on “African tribal mysticism, history, memory, and nostalgia.”

MoMA chairman Leon Black acknowledged, in an interview with the Times’ Pogrebin, that the museum previously “didn’t emphasize female artists, didn’t emphasize what minority artists were doing, and it was limited on geography.” He went on to say, “Where those were always the exceptions, now they really should be part of the reality of the multicultural society we all live in.”

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.

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