The Museum of Modern Art is one of the most renowned art museums in the world and one of New York’s greatest tourist attractions. Due to constant overcrowding, it has grown and was closed for four months. Now the MoMA is back – and has completely renovated itself.
Even from 53rd Street, the large black lettering on an inner wall of the building can be seen through the glass: “Hello. Again.”. The Museum of Modern Art says hello with this work by the American artist Haim Steinbach – and is back. After the extension, expansion and renovation, it will be open to visitors again this Monday (October 21).
The famous museum in the middle of Manhattan had to expand. Around three million visitors from more than 50 countries squeezed their way through the exhibition rooms every year, the queues at the cash registers often stretched out into the street, and the works of art inside were often difficult to make out because of all the visitors. Also due to the huge competition in New York, where potential visitors can quickly switch to other renowned museums such as the Guggenheim or the Metropolitan, the MoMA had to do something to assert itself.
It was only 15 years ago that the Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi enlarged the museum building to around twice its previous area, but the MoMA quickly grew out of there too. Now the architects Ricardo Scofidio and Liz Diller have added more than 400 million dollars, added an outbuilding and enlarged the museum by a further 3700 square meters.
But it wasn’t just about more space – it was also about the content. The museum took the opportunity to completely renew itself. So far, MoMA has mainly shown modern western works from the late 19th and 20th centuries and was considered one of the most outstanding museums in the world in this field. The works were shown chronologically and linearly, as a succession of art styles. The artists shown were largely from Europe, white and male – and this has been criticized for a long time. The museum, which will be 90 years old in November, has become a “monument to an obsolete history,” wrote the New York Times.
That is different now. There is still a loose chronological connection in the new MoMA, but the art is completely mixed up – as if the curators had given the building a good shake. The new architecture makes everything look more open and invites you to stroll and spontaneously turn. In addition to paintings and design, significantly more sculptures, photography, film and performance art can be seen everywhere – and, above all, significantly more art by women, Latinos, Asians and African-Americans, among others.
This leads to exciting discoveries and combinations. One of the museum’s superstar paintings, Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, now hangs next to a work by the Afro-American artist Faith Ringgold. And from now on, MoMA wants to shake up the permanent collection again every six months. All of this corresponds to the zeitgeist and is also aimed at younger groups of visitors.
The museum is finally showing itself to be a “living, breathing institution of the 21st century,” says the New York Times. “A group of very clever curators are putting their heads together and working from within to steer the great white ship in a different direction.” When it comes to architecture, however, the critics are divided. While “New York Magazine” raves about a “work of convinced and modest elegance”, the “New York Times” compares the new building with an Apple computer store: “smart, sprawling and a little soulless”. In addition, the museum’s new, more open layout will need a lot of explanation. “We’ll see if visitors find it liberating or confusing.” But the last word has not yet been said anyway, says MoMA director Glenn Lowry. “The museum will always be in further development.”