In Brief

The Museum of Modern Art Will Close Until October, Preparing for Major Overhaul

The final stage of the museum’s $400 million renovation includes 40,000 square feet of additional space and a new focus on overlooked, non-white artists.

Exterior view of The Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street (courtesy MoMA, © 2017 Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

The Museum of Modern Art will close its doors this summer as it prepares what is the institution’s largest rehang and curatorial overhaul in almost 90 years.

From June 15 to October 21, MoMA will shutter to the public in order to complete the final stage of its $400 million renovation, which includes 40,000 square feet of additional space and a new curatorial focus on overlooked artists from Black, Asian, and Latinx backgrounds. The museum also intends to showcase more women than it has ever before.

According to The New York Times, which broke the story, the museum will end the discipline-based display system it has used for decades to separate painting, sculpture, architecture, design, photography, performance, film, paper, and mixed media from each other. There will also be a new two-story studio for live and experimental programming, including performance, dance, music, moving image, and sound.

Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, the MoMA renovation includes space built upon the demolished remains of the American Folk Art Museum. Existing galleries will also expand west through 53W53, the luxury residential skyscraper designed by Jean Nouvel.

North/south section-perspective through the new gallery spaces at The Museum of Modern Art, looking east along Fifty-third Street (courtesy MoMA, © 2017 Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

“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,” Glenn D. Lowry, director of the museum, told The New York Times. “It means that the usual gets supplanted now by the unexpected.”

Accordingly, the theme of MoMa’s massive rehang seems to be a reexamination of the permanent collection. Curators will rotate the selection of art in the galleries every six to nine months and the opening exhibitions will also draw from the museum’s holdings.

Rest assured, cornerstones of the collection will still have a prominent position in the galleries, but alongside mainstays like Picasso and Van Gogh will be less familiar names like Okwui Okpokwasili, an Igbo-Nigerian-American artist, performer, and choreographer. Accordingly, the museum will reopen with a survey of Latin American art, along with exhibitions by two prominent African-American artists, Pope L. and Betye Saar.

Today, MoMA also announced a multi-year partnership between itself, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and MoMA PS1. The first in a series of collaborative programs will be an exhibition of new work by current participants in the Studio Museums artist-in-residence program, which opens at MoMA PS1 on June 9. The show will feature works by Allison Janae Hamilton, Tschabalala Self, and Sable Elyse Smith. The first exhibition in the series will feature Michael Armitage and will open in the new MoMA on October 21.

Construction progress in new gallery spaces at The Museum of Modern Art (photo by Max Touhey)

“We don’t want to forget our roots in terms of having the greatest Modernist collection,” the museum’s chairman, Leon Black, told NYT, “but the museum didn’t emphasize female artists, didn’t emphasize what minority artists were doing, and it was limited on geography.” He added, “Where those were always the exceptions, now they really should be part of the reality of the multicultural society we all live in.”

Covering the financial cost of its closure, MoMA has tightened its budget. A $100 million donation from entertainment mogul David Geffen and more than $200 million from the estate of David Rockefeller, who died in 2017, also helped keep the museum buoyant.

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