“There’s a tendency to see the museum collection as frozen in time, and it isn’t,” Glenn Lowry, the Museum of Modern Art’s director, told members of the press this morning while unveiling more details of MoMA’s ongoing expansion plans. Along those lines, MoMA is already in the process of getting a facelift that will add 50,000 square feet of gallery space and, as part of a design plan by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, additional adornments including more views of the museum’s sunny garden, a sleek espresso bar, and iPhone charging stations.
MoMA’s $400 million expansion, under construction now for a little more than a year, has been controversial from the start. First announced in 2014, the plan included razing of the American Folk Art Museum, as well as moving into several floors of the Jean Nouvel–designed Tower Verre skyscraper (also known as 53W53) next door to the museum on 53rd Street. Last year, MoMA amended its plan to get rid of some of its bolder elements, among them a 54th Street entrance to the museum’s garden and a so-called “Gray Box” performance space.
By the end of construction in 2019, MoMA will have increased its gallery spaces from 125,000 square feet to 175,000 square feet. Among the major additions will be a street-level Projects Room gallery, which is intended for the museum’s ongoing “Projects” series, inaugurated in 1971 and devoted to new commissions by emerging artists. Visitors won’t need tickets to get into the Projects gallery—or anything on the ground floor, for that matter.
The expansion includes an already reconstructed Bauhaus staircase that had been destroyed in a 1984 renovation. At its base now is a Henri Matisse nude sculpture and, for museum-goers on their way up or down, Oskar Schlemmer’s 1932 painting Bauhaus Stairway hangs on a wall. For Elizabeth Diller, the staircase was one of many ways of connecting to the museum’s rich architectural lineage. The design, she said, was “DS + R’s language, but riffing off the histories of MoMA.”
On the second floor, visitors will be able to peruse books and MoMA merchandise at a new gift shop and enjoy an espresso while looking out at the garden. Light-filled and slick, the lounge is attached to a redone café that has on its walls images of digitally edited oranges against a tiled background, courtesy of Guyton\Walker. The third floor has another lounge that looks out onto the garden, this one with a Lawrence Weiner text piece that will be on view. Nearby is a gallery that will be the first new space to host an exhibition, opening June 12: “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive.”
Much of the renovation, Diller said, won’t be immediately visible to the public, since a lot of it involves redoing behind-the-scenes elements—including one frequent inconvenience for many museum visitors that’s known for its long lines. “It’s not very sexy,” Diller said, “but to make the coat check better, we changed the configuration.”
The museum also announced this morning that starting on June 4, it will close its main 53rd Street doors and instead require visitors to enter through the Ronald S. and Jo Carole Lauder Building, the museum’s narrower and dimmer original entrance. An exact date for the reopening of the 53rd Street entrance was not given.