The new Museum of Modern Art is nearly double the size of the old one,
and cost $425 million to construct.
The Museum of Modern Art was founded in 1929 by three remarkable women
including Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. They had what was then and still is
a very simple and a very compelling idea, which is that modern art is
the art of our time and is every bit as compelling and interesting as
the art of the past. And that New York City because it is the city of
the future - and certainly was seen as a city of the future in 1929
--should be the premiere place in the world to see, enjoy, and learn
about modern art.
That idea has propelled the institution forward from rented space on
Fifth Avenue -- 4,000 square feet in the Heckscher Building, now the
Crown Building - to our new home that we opened to the public on November 20. The project, designed by Yoshio
Taniguchi, was really the result of over a year of reflection and
discussion within the institution. We called it "Imagining the Future,"
when we and the staff and trustees asked ourselves and our friends what
it was that we needed to succeed in the 21st century as well as we had
in the 20th century. It became very clear that what we needed first and
foremost was an architectural platform that would allow the ideas of the
institution to be expressed in a new and different way. We needed more
space for contemporary art, a completely different layout of the
galleries that was more complex, nuanced, and the conversion of the
building as an entity from a kind of hermeneutic box that turns inward
away from the city into a pulsing center of activity that opened out
onto the city.
In 1939, when our first building was created specifically for the museum
by architects Philip Goodwin and Edward Stone, we were the first urban
museum that opened directly onto the street, that captured the beat, the
energy, the pulse of this extraordinary city, and we wanted to regain
that, something that had been lost over the intervening decades.
new, cavernous sixth floor offers temporary exhibitions.
Here, "F-111" by James Rosenquist.
So under the remarkable chairmanship of David Rockefeller in our capital
campaign, we set out to literally remake the Museum of Modern Art. It
involved first of all what we thought would be a capital campaign of
$300 million, and I have to confess that the head of development and I
looked at $300 million and said, "How could that possibly be? There’s no
But by the time we convened a group of remarkable people to work with us
on this project, and Yoshio’s plans crystallized, and we realized what
the scope of we were going to do would involve, we had a capital
campaign of $858 million. The core group of "founders" -- individuals
that we had attracted to this project to be part of the remaking of the
Museum of Modern Art and that now numbers 55 -- each have given in excess
of $5 million. We currently have $725 million raised or pledged.
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden has been expanded and features
31 works from the collection.
What is the project? The project is a $425 million rebuilding of the
museum here in Manhattan, $120 million to enable our endowment to
sustain operations, and $100 million for future real estate
acquisitions. We bought a great deal of land around the museum and in
Queens in order to ensure that the next generation of the museum has the
space in which to continue. We put $50 million into a kind of a
rainy-day fund to help our operation when we were under construction,
then we built MoMA QNS, a study and storage center in Long Island City,
which we used for a little over two years for temporary exhibitions
while we were under construction in Manhattan.
None of this -- absolutely none of this -- would have been possible
without catalytic support of the city and then the state. Then-Mayor
Rudy Giuliani gave us a $65 million grant that the current
administration has ardently supported. Without that seed funding, we
could never have launched a capital campaign on this scale. The city was
joined by the state, which has now given us $10 million from the
governor’s office. That vote of confidence is what allowed us to go out
to the private sector and say, "Look, if the city and state have walked
into this project at this scale, we really hope that you will match that
and exceed it."
Our original hope had been that we could match the city money ten to
one. We have far outdone that. By the time this project is through, it
will be more like twelve and a half to one.
fifth floor features selections from the museum's sculptures and paintings
collection. On the outside wall, "Rhythm of a Russian Dance" by
Theo Van Doesburg (1918); in the distant gallery, "Head of A Woman" by
Pablo Picasso (1932)
What I think is critical to understanding why this project has at least made it to where it is
is that the museum has always understood a very simple formula, which
was that to be an outstanding museum meant having an outstanding
collection. Nothing mattered more to the Museum of Modern Art than a
singularly important collection.
In order to have a singularly important collection, two factors have to
be at play simultaneously and always. The first is an extraordinary
board of trustees utterly dedicated and committed to the museum’s
mission. The second is an outstanding staff capable of doing the
research and creating the support mechanisms and the educational
programs to enable the development of an extraordinary collection and
ultimately its display to the public.
While I think one can make very strong economic benefit arguments for
why the museum’s expansion is beneficial to the city and the state --
and we made those arguments and were very gratified by the city and
state’s recognition of the inherent value that cultural institutions
play in the vibrancy of New York City and state -- ultimately, the
reason we can make those economic arguments is precisely because of the
singular importance of the institution as an artistic venue. By that
relentless commitment that now extends over three or four generations
striving to build an outstanding collection and developing innovative
ways of displaying it, the institution has garnered both a considerable
public -- approximately 1.8 million people before we began shutting down
for the construction project -- and a considerable critical public. That
creates a kind of magnetic effect that enables us to look to the future
with some degree of confidence.
A model of the new Museum of Modern Art as part of an exhibition in the new Museum of Modern Art on nine museums designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi.
In a post-9/11 environment I think it is impossible to predict precisely
what kind of attendance the museum is likely to generate. Certainly I
think it would be foolhardy to assume one can continue on the same path
at least on the short term that propelled so many cultural institutions
pre-2001 toward a sense of continual growth. We were seeing our
audiences grow at five or ten percent every year for seven or eight
years in a row. But I do think that this city supports the arts like no
other city in America. I do think that the aggregation of cultural
institutions in the city makes New York a unique place. And it is the
synergy between our institutions that enables us collectively to be bold
and adventuresome about the kinds of projects we undertake.
In our case as we open to the public and look to the end of our capital
campaign, we are already thinking about the next moves. For us, the
construction of this building was not an end but a beginning.
It is now the platform for us to work through the next set of ideas
about the Museum of Modern Art as an institution that we would like to
think of as isotopic with a series of half lives constantly
evolving, constantly changing. What you will see in the new museum is a
proposition, an idea about to how perceive and enjoy and appreciate
modern art that will change continually. As it changes, so too will the
building and so too will our needs. If we have done our job well, we
will continue to be a very young institution despite our 75 years.
Glenn Lowry has been the director of the Museum of Modern Art since
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