NEW MOMA FINDS ART-LOVERS READY
Rave reviews are greeting architect Yoshio Taniguchis new $425-million, six-level, 630,000-square-foot Museum of Modern Art, with its warehouse-sized contemporary galleries, vista-rich spaces for the permanent collection, vast acreage of Vermont green slate and white oak floors and grand swaths of stark white and subdued gray walls. One undeniable highlight is the installation in the soaring new atrium of Barnett Newmans 25-foot-tall rusted steel Broken Obelisk (1963-67). The new MoMA opens to the public on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2004.
"A serene composition that weaves art, architecture and the city into a transcendent esthetic experience," wrote new New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff. "The art worlds new corporate headquarters," proclaimed Bloomberg News art critic Tyler Green. "Yes, its worth $20!" bannered the notoriously anti-cultural New York Post, in reference to the museums controversial $20 admission price. And Celia McGee of the New York Daily News listed "20 fabulous reasons" to visit the new MoMA, beginning with Vincent van Goghs The Starry Night (1889) and also noting the naming of one contemporary gallery in honor of MoMA 20th-century curator Kirk Varnedoe, who died of cancer last year.
Among the early naysayers was Alexandra Peers of the Wall Street Journal, who focused on the absence of hot art-market properties in MoMAs premiere installation (tagged as "out" in a handy but dubious chart are Maurizio Cattelan, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Julian Schnabel and Takashi Murakami). And Artnet Magazines own Charlie Finch was less than happy with the new building, which he finds sterile and materialistic.
Indeed, the museum assembled an impressive lineup of corporate and individual angels to pay for the thing -- something that every U.S. museum needs. MoMA came up with an astonishing total of $858 million for the overall project, a sum that includes -- according to a story in the New York Times -- the cost of MoMA QNS, close to $100 million on real estate purchases, $70 million for the endowment and more than $100 million for fundraising itself. MoMA director Glenn Lowry says that $725 million is in hand so far, and that the overall capital campaign is a year ahead of schedule. The project was originally budgeted at less than $400 million. "Every time I missed a fundraising meeting," joked MoMA board chairman Ronald S. Lauder, "they raised the amount by $100 million."
Unlike the proposed West Side stadium for the New York Jets, which requires close to $1 billion from the taxpayers, the new MoMA got by with a "mere" $65 million from the city and $10 million from the state. The rest of the funds came largely from the museums trustees -- more than $500 million in all -- and as a result, many of the new museum galleries bear their names. The museum has 42 trustees, 15 life trustees and 14 "honorary" trustees, according to the Times. One of the lesser museum spaces, the museums sixth floor trustee lounge, notably, is named for disgraced Global Crossing chairman Gary Winnick, who remains a MoMA trustee (though Global Crossing is bankrupt, Winnick escaped with his fortune intact, in what Fortune magazine characterized as possibly "the biggest executive rip-off of all time").
MoMA also has an imaginative lineup of corporate art sponsors, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., successor firm of MoMA superpatron David Rockefellers Chase Manhattan, which is sponsoring the "reinstallation of the collection," free admission on Nov. 20 and a whole new education program that launches in 2005. Ford Motor Company is also underwriting a range of educational programs. The design-friendly Target Stores is sponsoring free admission at the museum every Friday from 4 to 8 pm for the next four years (dubbed "Target Free Friday Nights"). Banana Republic also sponsored the reinstallation of the collection.
A group of 24 Danish design companies, dubbed the Danish Design Project, are sponsoring the furniture and accessories in the public spaces, and USM Modular Furniture is helping out with the museums office furnishings. Sony is sponsoring the museums first gallery dedicated to media art, and IBM is "partnering" with the museum for its kiosks, digital tour guides and other high-tech needs. "The new MoMA is a wireless building," Lowry noted.
Among the new acquisitions on view in the galleries are paintings and sculpture by Peter Doig, Richard Diebenkorn, Donald Judd, Jasper Johns, Alex Katz, Sol LeWitt, Gordon Matta-Clark, Julie Mehretu, Elizabeth Peyton and Andy Warhol. New photo acquisitions include works by Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky, Boris Mikhailov, Jeff Wall and Gillian Wearing. Print department acquisitions include works by Damien Hirst, Lucian Freud, Henri Matisse and Edward Ruscha; the media gallery is screening new works by Eve Sussman and Li Yongbin; the drawings galleries have added works by Odilion Redon, Philip Guston and Willem de Kooning; and the design gallerys new acquisitions include a 1955 Vespa and an 1821 set of travel cutlery, now the oldest item on view in the museum.
When it comes to publishing, MoMA is also hitting the ground running, with a total of 13 new books to coincide with the museums reopening (and MoMAs recent 75th anniversary). This astonishing list begins with a 56-page paperback by Glenn Lowry titled The New Museum of Modern Art ($9.95) and includes Art in Our Time: A Chronicle of the Museum of Modern Art ($50), a 256-page compendium of historical photos and archival documents edited by Harriet Schoenholz Bee and Michelle Elligott. In between are sizeable new reference tomes from each of the museums departments, penned by their directors or associate curators -- painting and sculpture by John Elderfield, contemporary art by the late Kirk Varnedoe, prints by Deborah Wye, drawing by Jodi Hauptman, architecture by Matilda McQuaid and design by Paola Antonelli.
Last but not least, visitors to the new museum should be sure to hunt up the two special artists projects associated with the construction of the new museum. Mark Dions Rescue Archeology, installed in the museum basement, is a fascinating and wide-ranging museological display of artifacts uncovered during the excavation of the museum. And displayed on the sixth floor are Michael Weselys "Open Shutter" photographs, a set of four photos of the construction of the new museum made with extremely long exposure times.