The grand dame of contemporary art museums, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is getting a $400 million facelift, and announced today that in order to complete the final stage of the renovation and expansion it will close completely from June 15th to October 21st.
The lengthy closure is necessary, MoMA director Glenn Lowry told the New York Times, in order to fully rehang the existing galleries, and move into the new spaces that were created by the new design, which was overseen by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler. The museum will expand into the area where the American Folk Art Museum once stood, as well as into parts of a new skyscraper next-door designed by Jean Nouvel.
The shutdown is much shorter than the two-year hiatus that MoMA underwent prior to its last renovation, which was completed in 2004. MoMA PS1 in Long Island City will remain open during the four-month period. And to buffer the bit of bad news, MoMA will announce on Tuesday that it will be receiving a gift of more than $200 million from the estate of its late patron, David Rockefeller.
Both Lowry and Leon Black, the chair of the MoMA board, stressed that a complete closing was the only way to fully ready the museum for a radical shift in programming strategy that will, as the Times put it, “rethink the way that the story of modern and contemporary art is presented to the public.”
A new generation of curators is discovering the richness of what is in our collection, and there is great work being made around the world that we need to pay attention to. It means that the usual gets supplanted now by the unexpected.
We don’t want to forget our roots in terms of having the greatest Modernist collection, but the museum didn’t emphasize female artists, didn’t emphasize what minority artists were doing, and it was limited on geography. Where those were always the exceptions, now they really should be part of the reality of the multicultural society we all live in.
As a testament to this, MoMA has said it will rotate out work in the permanent collection every six to nine months, and will draw all the work in its opening shows from its holdings. The museum will reopen in October with shows from African American artists Pope.L and Betye Saar, a survey of Latin American artists featuring works gifted by Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, and the first show of a new partnership with the Studio Museum in Harlem that will allow the Studio Museum to hold exhibitions at MoMA while its own new building on 125th Street is under construction.