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Possible MoMA expansion as quest for more space becomes pressing

Plans may be afoot to buy hotel next door

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Bursting at its seams, the Museum of Modern Art is in the process of acquiring an adjacent building, the 200-room Dorset Hotel, according to sources in New York.

A brief report in the New York Post, a daily tabloid, indicated that MOMA was near closing a deal to buy the hotel for some $60 million. The property is owned by the Estate of Sol Goldman, a real estate developer who had extensive holdings in Manhattan. According to the report, the museum would then gut the interior and renovate the space for offices and other purposes, opening up additional exhibition areas in its current building.

If the deal does go through, it will achieve one of the museum’s prime objectives: the expansion of its exhibition space. Like most museums, MOMA can only show a tiny fraction of its huge collections. Moreover, the sheer scarcity of space on 53rd Street has meant that the museum’s departments (with the exception of painting and sculpture) have few opportunities to organise extensive exhibitions. MOMA officials have acknowledged that limits on display space may have kept gifts from coming to the museum (as the likelihood of showing those gifts is slim). Furthermore, MOMA lacks the high-ceilinged galleries in which oversized contemporary installations can be shown. It is not clear how that need would be met by any space inside the Dorset.

Besides seeking an additional building, MOMA is also determined to increase its endowment by at least $100 million.

The $60 million purchase price may represent a bargain for the museum, since the Goldman Estate paid $70 million for the hotel in 1987, just before the Manhattan real estate market dropped.

Museum insiders downplay talk of a deal for the Dorset, saying that talks have been going on for years. MOMA officials have not commented on the possible purchase. Speaking for the museum, Jessica Schwartz conceded that “it’s no secret that we are in a quest for more space”.

As speculation continues on the MOMA deal, other Manhattan museums have initiated renovation and expansion projects. The Whitney Museum of American Art has announced a $14 million expansion/renovation of adjacent buildings and the American Museum of Natural History has begun raising $120 million to demolish and rebuild its Hayden Planetarium.Bursting at its seams, the Museum of Modern Art is in the process of acquiring an adjacent building, the 200-room Dorset Hotel, according to sources in New York.

A brief report in the New York Post, a daily tabloid, indicated that MOMA was near closing a deal to buy the hotel for some $60 million. The property is owned by the Estate of Sol Goldman, a real estate developer who had extensive holdings in Manhattan. According to the report, the museum would then gut the interior and renovate the space for offices and other purposes, opening up additional exhibition areas in its current building.

If the deal does go through, it will achieve one of the museum’s prime objectives: the expansion of its exhibition space. Like most museums, MOMA can only show a tiny fraction of its huge collections. Moreover, the sheer scarcity of space on 53rd Street has meant that the museum’s departments (with the exception of painting and sculpture) have few opportunities to organise extensive exhibitions. MOMA officials have acknowledged that limits on display space may have kept gifts from coming to the museum (as the likelihood of showing those gifts is slim). Furthermore, MOMA lacks the high-ceilinged galleries in which oversized contemporary installations can be shown. It is not clear how that need would be met by any space inside the Dorset.

Besides seeking an additional building, MOMA is also determined to increase its endowment by at least $100 million.

The $60 million purchase price may represent a bargain for the museum, since the Goldman Estate paid $70 million for the hotel in 1987, just before the Manhattan real estate market dropped.

Museum insiders downplay talk of a deal for the Dorset, saying that talks have been going on for years. MOMA officials have not commented on the possible purchase. Speaking for the museum, Jessica Schwartz conceded that “it’s no secret that we are in a quest for more space”.

As speculation continues on the MOMA deal, other Manhattan museums have initiated renovation and expansion projects. The Whitney Museum of American Art has announced a $14 million expansion/renovation of adjacent buildings and the American Museum of Natural History has begun raising $120 million to demolish and rebuild its Hayden Planetarium.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'MoMA expands?'

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