Museums USA

MoMA to demolish folk art museum building

Expansion will create a “fully integrated campus” with more public and gallery space, museum says

Concept sketch for MoMA's planned expansion, view from 53rd Street. Photo: © 2014 Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has confirmed it will demolish the former American Folk Art Museum as part of an expansion plan by the architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro that will add 40,000 sq. ft of gallery and public spaces to the New York institution.

MoMA initially announced plans to raze the former American Folk Art Museum building at 45 West 53rd Street in April 2013 but, after protests from architects and critics, undertook a review of its decision.

The plans approved by the museum's board today “are the result of a diligent and thoughtful six-month study and design process that explored all options for the site,” according to a press release. “The analysis that we undertook was lengthy and rigorous, and ultimately led us to the determination that creating a new building on the site of the former American Folk Art Museum is the only way to achieve a fully integrated campus.”

A source close to the project said that two major factors had led to the decision: difficulties in aligning the floors to the two buildings and creating continuous circulation through the spaces. MoMA will also take over three floors of a residential tower being developed by Hines at 53 West 53rd Street.

The folk art museum opened its Tod Williams and Billie Tsien-design premises on West 53rd Street in 2001 but sold the building just ten years later to MoMA for an undisclosed sum after defaulting on the $32m debt it took on for construction. The American Folk Art Museum now operates from its original, smaller home at Lincoln Square.

As part of its expansion, MoMA intends to turn much of its ground-floor area into a space for the public to gather for free. As part of this, it will increase un-ticketed access to the sculpture garden later this year.

The expansion, which is due to be completed in 2019, will also result in a changed display. Currently, the galleries are largely arranged by medium. Following the renovation, they will be multi-disciplinary, says a museum spokeswoman.

She added that the expansion will allow MoMA to better show recent acquisitions, ranging from entire collections such as the archives of Frank Lloyd Wright to large-scale works by artists including Mira Schendel, Richard Serra and Cy Twombly.

The museum is in a “quiet” phase of fund-raising, says the spokeswoman, but a budget has yet to be announced.

The floorplan for MoMA's 40,000 sq. ft expansion. Photo: © 2014 Diller Scofidio + Renfro
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15 Jan 14
16:21 CET


It is f...g shame to demolish folk art museum as an institution and its great building. Modernism and its expansionist policy have no respect for the past. We will boycott MOMA, cancel our memberships ..

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