Photo by Brett Beyer, 2019. Image courtesy of MoMA.

New York’s Museum of Modern Art reopened on October 20th after being closed for nearly four months. The $400 million put into the renovation went towards more extensive galleries, live performance spaces, more dining options, and a fresh new store. The extra 40,000 square feet of space means more room for the three million visitors that come to the museum every year and a more diverse collection of artists. Art by women and minorities, whose work is often overlooked even in internationally known museums, will now reside in the same space as the Picasso’s and van Gogh’s. Curators hope to bring in an extra 500,000 visitors a year by exposing crowds to exciting artists that otherwise wouldn’t be on their radar.

Glenn D. Lowry, The David Rockefeller Director, claims, “The real value of this expansion is not more space, but space that allows us to rethink the experience of art in the Museum.” More space doesn’t just mean more artists’ work displayed on the walls, but also room for performances, experimental programs, and conversation. Visitors can experience electronic music by David Tudor in The Marie Josee and Henry Kravis Studio or can drop into a workshop in the Paula and James Crown Creativity Lab. It’s no longer a space to stare at as you walk through it at leisure, but a place with which you can fully interact. Multimedia elements engage the audience, bringing a whole new perspective on the way we enjoy art and the role it plays in our lives. Expanded hours means even more people can access all the museum has to offer until as late as 9 PM on Thursdays.

Photo by Noah Kalina, Marie Josee and Henry Kravis Studio. Image courtesy of MoMA.

Not everyone is excited about the expansion and renovation. One New York Times critic described the new look as “smart, surgical, sprawling, and slightly soulless.” These adjectives are fitting for an Apple Store, but not exactly an ideal way to characterize a space that is supposed to be a cultural hub. The architects behind the renovation, Diller Scofidio and Renfro, also redid Lincoln Center, constructed the High Line and the Shed at Hudson Yards. A few writers believe these large-scale creations are leading to the death of New York, and the renovated MoMA might be no exception. Since the construction of the museum in 1939, architects have knocked down brownstones, the Rockefeller mansions, and the Folk Art Museum, sparing only the Financial Times Building and St. Thomas Church on 53rd street. Tourists may be fascinated by a building that manages to take up nearly an entire city block in the middle of Midtown Manhattan, but seasoned New Yorkers may see it as more of a burden than anything else due to the increase in traffic. Viewers will have to decide for themselves whether the renovation was worth the time, money, and space.

Sarah Sze, Triple Point (Pendulum), 2013. Photo by Noah Kalina. Image courtesy of MoMA.

If one does decide to check it out, there will be some highly unusual work on display. Betye Saar’s prints in The Legends of Black Girls’ Window are the first examination of her skills as a printmaker. 81 year old Haitian, Herve Telemaque, will have his surrealist paintings on display. Head up to the 4th floor, and you can see thought-provoking work by Japanese photographer Shigeru Onishi. What’s especially unique about the new exhibitions is that they won’t last long — the museum plans on doing frequent reinstallations to show even more art in different combinations. The constant rearranging is “a reminder that countless ideas and histories can be explored through the Museum’s rich collection,” according to the MoMA website.

Haegue Yang, Handles, 2019. Photo by Denis Doorly. Image courtesy of MoMA.
The new MoMA was set to open to the public on October 21st of this year, but gave visitors a sweet surprise by opening their doors early for a free event unofficially called “A Day for New York.” New Yorkers and those lucky enough to be in town got the opportunity to see all the new MoMA has to offer from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. without paying for a ticket. This was a highly unusual move from such an iconic museum and came with little explanation as to why they made the decision. According to their Instagram and several interviews conducted via email, museum officials simply wanted to celebrate the new MoMA by giving viewers a chance to spend a Sunday gazing at the new exhibits and dining at the updated restaurants. MoMA made the day accessible for all by making it completely free all day.
Visitors were able to immerse themselves in the renovated galleries, try out the impressive wine selection in the bar room of The Modern, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and see the incredible amount of additional space. For those who didn’t make it there on opening day, there’s still plenty of compelling events happening this week. Let’s Talk Art is a series of daily conversations open to anyone who’s interested, led by artists and other relevant guests. Films are premiered almost daily, followed by conversations with the filmmakers. Events like these are happening for months to come. Check out the calendar on their website for more information.

Skip the line on opening day and get tickets online.

A view of Picasso’s paintings on the fifth-floor gallery. Photo by Noah Kalina. Image courtesy of MoMA.

This article was updated on October 22nd.




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