At long last, Glenn Lowry has responded to the ongoing complaints that MoMA’s new space resembles a crowded shopping mall: they’ll make it a larger shopping mall! Tuesday night, MoMA neighbor the American Folk Art Museum announced it would relocate back to its former home in Lincoln Center’s lobby, citing financial stress from dwindling foot traffic and debts acquired through their 2001 renovation. MoMA will buy their building.
This is sad news for the Folk Art Museum, but MoMA’s move isn’t too much of a surprise – the museum has been talking about expanding almost as long as it’s been back on 53rd Street. Though the plans were put on hold in 2009, over 60,000 square feet of exhibition space in a 54th Street multi-use skyscraper were once slated for development, and in 2010 Lowry told Art + Auction that he hadn’t abandoned his plans to grow the museum. It’s unclear what will happen to the 54th Street expansion project now that space has opened up next door.
I have mixed feelings about MoMA’s latest real estate ventures. While I generally feel more museum is better, based on what I’ve seen, the museum’s expansion has just as much to do with making room for visitors as it does for art. I suppose that’s a good problem to have, but I worry that we’re going to get more MoMA megaplex for our woes. That is, a full mid-town block of corporate walls that handle art and people the way Google treats its users: impersonally.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but that’s not what I’m looking for in art. I suppose this reflects my biases — I spend more time visiting smaller galleries and chatting with artists because I like my viewing experience to be more personal — but it’s not like museums can’t offer that as well. The Brooklyn Museum constantly engages their community — last year they had weekly Work of Art screenings at a local bar. Can you imagine MoMA every connecting with their visitors at that level? Me neither.
- There’s a lot of talk over at NYMagazine about whether the Folk Art Museum’s building killed its chances for survival, most of which I think is off point. I never cared for their skinny building either, but the New Museum has the same problems and I still visit. Museums become destinations through a combination of great shows and strong marketing. The Folk Art Museum had only the former, and inconsistently at that.
- The Met will take over The Whitney’s old space on 77th Street. I hope they’ll use the building to showcase more contemporary art, but we’ll see. The Whitney’s contemporary shows very much felt constrained by the size of their building. I doubt that would be any different.