The Museum of Modern Art's new $450 million, 47,000-square-foot expansion offers visitors more than much-needed elbow room. It emphasizes new juxtapositions of works to encourage broader perspectives and new narratives.
The revamped MoMA, a third bigger than the old one, opened to the public on Monday, drawing protesters calling for the removal of one of the museum's board members, Steve Tananbaum. The demonstrators claim a hedge fund Tananbaum is connected to has profited from Puerto Rico's financial crisis.
A few people were arrested in Monday's protest, which briefly shut down West 53rd Street and caused long lines to get into the museum. There was no disruption inside the museum, though, and the opening was moving as expected by about noon. News 4 has reached out to the museum for comment.
Inside the museum, iconic works by the likes of Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and Pollock remain dependably on view but visitors are invited to see them in a new light. They are now displayed side by side with less familiar works by women and minorities, and artists from places like Africa, South America and Asia.
The goal is to rethink the familiar and make Modernism feel fresh and challenging again.
"Sometimes even small juxtapositions can have a big impact," says Jodi Hauptmann, senior curator of drawings and prints at MoMA. "On the fifth floor, for example, Van Gogh's 'The Starry Night' is now shown in the same gallery as a collection of ceramics made at the same time by George Ohr, of Biloxi, Mississippi. It's interesting to see those things together."
Picasso's 1907 "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" now shares gallery space with a 1967 painting by African-American artist Faith Ringgold featuring an interracial gunfight. Seeing the two works together provides fresh perspective on both, and seems to emphasize the violence of Picasso's fractured bodies.
"Inspired by Alfred Barr's original vision to be an experimental museum in New York, the real value of this expansion is not just more space, but space that allows us to rethink the experience of art in the museum," says Glenn D. Lowry, director of MoMA.
To keep creating fresh juxtapositions, offer up more of the museum's permanent collection, and place greater focus on multiculturalism, the revamped MoMA promises to rotate many of the works in its galleries every six months.
"It's an opportunity to show visitors what the museum has been doing in terms of collecting these past years," says Michelle Elligott, chief of archives, library and research collections.
In some of the galleries, sculpture, painting, design, architecture, photography and film are all featured together.
"We have now brought various departments into conversation, which allows visitors to explore what different artists were doing during the same time period," says Martino Stierli, chief curator of architecture and design at the museum.
Other galleries continue to focus on a single medium. Explains Juliet Kinchin, curator in the department of architecture and design: "Each floor has a broad chronological frame, but within each frame there's more flexibility, with occasional breakouts to create a dialogue."
"We're trying to have some areas that are fully integrated in terms of departments, and other areas where you can really focus solely on a particular medium," she says.
To help alleviate crowds, MoMA now has more ways to reach the galleries, including through a new wing on the west side.
The expansion, developed by MoMA with architects Diller Scofidio and Benfro in collaboration with Gensler, also includes a larger ground floor — including two new galleries — that is free and open to the public.
There is aIso a new studio space for live and experimental programming, including music, sound, spoken word and expanded approaches to the moving image.
"The idea is that the museum will now be a more engaging destination for both repeat visitors, as well those visiting the museum for the first time," says Elligott.
-Gus Rosendale contributed to this report