Reopening of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) in New York reopens a new wing in Manhattan on October 21, 2019, adding more than 3.700 square meters of exhibition space. This expansion of the Museum, which has taken place over the past four months, with an investment of almost half a billion dollars (mostly financed by donations and patrons), was developed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with the Gensler Studio.
The renovation is a crucial reinvention of the museum and the vision of its director and founder Alfred H. Barr Jr., giving the project a renewed energy, which sometimes seems comfortably dormant in its privileged location in Midtown Manhattan. MoMA receives 3 million visitors annually, half of them local and/or national. In other words, a large part of the public visits the space on a regular and attentive basis. It’s important that this museum, with a remarkable collection of modern and contemporary art, shows its ability to explore the communication of the numerous periods of recent art history. You can feel it at the opening exhibitions. This reality is achieved through the presentation of works that go beyond all artistic techniques, such as painting, sculpture, architecture, design, photography, multimedia, performance, film and works on paper.
On three of the floors of this new section of MoMA (in the fifth, fourth and second), throughout more than 2.700 square meters of galleries, the curators make a specific presentation in some of the rooms – sometimes dedicated to a single artistic technique –, thus mapping the history of modern and contemporary art. One third of the total of these galleries, and according to the museum’s direction, will undergo a reinstallation/organization every six months.
Some rooms are huge surprises, such as the exhibition Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction – The Patricia Phelps by Cisneros Gift, with exceptional works of modern art from Latin America: Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina or Uruguay.
Another unique space is the one that will host mostly performance projects. In this inauguration, Rainforest V (Variation 1) 1973-2015 is presented, conceived by David Tutor and directed by Composers Inside Electronics Inc. It’s an installation composed of everyday objects, which reverberate various noises and are suspended in a space with a gigantic ceiling. This gallery extends itself interestingly into the city, a connection allowed by the architecture of the space and the colossal translucent glass wall facing West 53 Street.
In the spaces dedicated to the (de)construction of modern and contemporary history, many rooms have specific concepts or subject matters. It’s interesting from a curatorial standpoint, resulting in an unexpected combination of artists and works, with great success. Examples include Downtown New York (with artists such as Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquiat), Hardware Software (where the human body is the reference for creation), True Stories (mostly real-life photographic records, with artists such as Nan Goldin or Wolfgang Tillmans). Or Before and After Tiananmen (Asian artists from the 80s and 90s). In addition to these “thematic” rooms, others feature only one artist, as is the case of Richard Serra’s Equal or Sheela Gowda’s Of All People. This logic is repeated by the other spaces, some more successful than others. But the majority is a success story. Among the less successful, or even very confusing, there is the Artist’s Choice section, in which a guest artist – Amy Sillman (The Shape of Shape) made the inaugural exhibition – she selects works from the collection in a personal curatorship effort. In this considerably small room, the artist has exhibited 75 works from the MoMA collection. Perhaps an important idea of the Museum, which certainly requires more square meters of exhibition.
The exhibition with paintings, drawings and sculptures by Betye Saar: The Legends of Black Girls Window is also relevant, as well as the installation for the Marron Atrium, conceived by the Seoul-based artist Haegue Yang, entitled Handles (commissioned by the museum), with six sculptures activated daily simultaneously with light and sound. It creates a complex environment, personal and political, where the artist’s historical and sensory references echo.
This new phase of MoMA is the rebirth of this museum’s design. Perhaps because it is limited to its own urban architecture, sometimes it’s difficult for it to breathe freely. The inaugural exhibitions are extraordinary, the programme is vast, and the new elements exhibited are sufficient to justify several hours of visiting, in a discovery or rediscovery of the unfinished history of modern and contemporary art.