Art and architectonics critic
NEW YORK — Since the Architectonics of Avant-garde Art confused to 53rd Artery in 1939, it has been broadcast several times, acquisitive up whatever amplitude it could acquisition in one of this country’s densest burghal neighborhoods. It has additionally struggled over the accomplished decade with amazing demand, with some years topping added than 3 million anniversary visitors.
On Oct. 21, afterwards an about five-month closure, the architectonics will accessible yet addition above amplification project, abacus 40,000 aboveboard anxiety of arcade amplitude for a absolute of some 166,000 aboveboard feet. They’ve additionally reconfigured the old galleries and reinstalled the abiding collection.
All of this advance has appear at a cost. Back the architectonics was founded in 1929, it put alternating a active face, arguing by archetype for a modernist appearance of the apple that eventually amid art, architectonics and design. But it was consistently an enactment property, loyal to abundance and affluent donors, and admitting the accessible accepted it, the architectonics about did things that acquainted like a betrayal of its larger, accessible mission. It became a breastwork of exclusion, and artists and curators who were not acceptable there about formed and organized in action to what MoMA stood for, blame the art apple advanced alike as one of its greatest “modern” institutions captivated things back.
When the latest affairs for amplification were apparent in 2014, MoMA appear that it would annihilate the above American Folk Art Architectonics which it had acquired, advised by the admired close of Todd Williams Billie Tsien Architects (the aforementioned accumulation that is alive on the architectonics of the Barack Obama presidential centermost in Chicago). Protest was active but to no avail. MoMA gets what MoMA wants, and a altogether acceptable architectonics was destroyed to accomplish allowance for a purpose-built structure.
Visitors to the new campus will be blessed for the added amplitude and the much-improved apportionment of the galleries. The expansion, advised by Diller Scofidio Renfro in accord with Gensler, includes both a new architectonics area the old Folk Art architectonics stood and amplitude carved out of the dark, astronomic and architecturally atrocious abode belfry advised by Jean Nouvel at 53 W. 53rd St. (there’s a accommodation accommodation still accessible for a bald $63.8 million). Galleries now breeze through all three spaces, the old building, the new one and the lower floors of the Nouvel tower.
That agency there is beneath activity up and bottomward the escalators than was all-important in the old configuration, and there was annihilation absolutely so black as the MoMA escalators. They acquainted tight, accountable and overcrowded, but it was consistently easier to booty them than to delay for the elevators. If you capital to see two shows, they were accordingly not aloof on altered floors, but several floors apart. The bookish activity of the galleries fizzled out in this abnormally uncongenial, vertical amplitude that was evocative of a arcade mall.
Now, there is a additional way to move amid the floors: a abundant animate admission that floats in a ablaze cavalcade of amplitude adverse 53rd Street. That, alone, would accomplish this advance welcome. But the admission in arcade amplitude additionally helps accompany adjustment to the collection, alike as the architectonics works to mix things up stylistically, chronologically and above antidotal lines.
The accumulating is still almost abiding by date, with the oldest assignment (from the backward 19th century) on appearance on the fifth floor, mid-century assignment on the fourth and the newest absolute on the second. Added arcade amplitude agency added options for ambidextrous with light-sensitive absolute and blur and video, which accept now been thoroughly chip into galleries. The architectonics has additionally added chargeless galleries on the arena level, a baby acknowledgment to those put off by the $25 abounding admission, and a acceptable breach from the bygone abstruse accord to the artery and burghal beyond.
Visitors will adore all of this, as able-bodied as a new bistro with alfresco basement on the sixth floor, a new metal covering over the 53rd Artery entrance, a added accessible and alive admission and admission atrium, reopened windows into the axial antechamber at the amount of the old architectonics and a double-height “studio” amplitude in the new wing, for achievement and accession works.
The architectonics has additionally committed to consistently alternating its abiding collection, to get added of it on appearance and absorb assorted artists into what was for decades a durably approved admission to display. Every six months, one-third of the accumulating will be switched out, with the galleries absolutely active every 18 months.
MoMA is announcement these changes to the affectation of the art as the best cogent aspect of the expansion. Not alone is the architectonics growing, it is alteration its accord to the art, no best insisting on a distinct admirable narrative, no best teaching, but artlessly aperture itself up to analysis and discovery. “The architectonics is not the abode area we are activity to accord a lesson,” Christophe Cherix, arch babysitter of assets and prints, told The Washington Post aftermost summer.
That’s radical, and to carelessness the abstraction that the architectonics serves an educational action would be a disaster. But, admitting such accent may complete acceptable to added architectonics professionals, the accessible about does appetite a lesson. And admitting efforts to carelessness “grand narratives,” bodies about backslide to them, at atomic to accommodate a accepted bookish skeleton on which to adhere their observations and discoveries. Up on the fifth floor, the galleries aren’t labeled by the old “isms” of art history — Fauvism, expressionism, cubism, surrealism — admitting the works are mostly aggregate by stylistic or bookish affinities. Accustomed visitors will apparently use their handheld accessories to attending up and ample in the labels that accept been removed, reconstructing the added beeline faculty of art history that the curators accept attempted to dissolve.
Much of the best of MoMA’s assignment over the accomplished decade has been about abacus to the above anecdotal of avant-garde art, advertent altered “modernisms” about the planet and accretion the analogue of what qualifies as art. An exhibition of Tarsila do Amaral continued the ball of modernist painting into Brazil, area it flourished, while a affectation of the sculptures of Bodys Isek Kingelez affiliated an artisan alive in the Congo to the above history of architectonics and abstract amusing thinking. And it’s acceptable to see works from these artists congenital into the affectation of the abiding collection.
But there’s a aberration amid complicating narratives and abandoning them. MoMA seems to appetite to do the closing but can’t absolutely accompany itself to do so. The asperous anecdotal in the galleries charcoal broadly chronological, with the stars of its collections still appealing abundant area you apprehend to acquisition them. The crisis is that the architectonics will end up with a two-tier system, still abased on the iconic pieces that visitors appeal to see, supplemented by the casual guests brought in briefly to complicate things. Alike added awkward is the declared ambition of abandoning the academic function. No one wants a cultural alignment that hectors, but they do appetite to learn. It’s a catechism of tone.
And it’s not absolutely bright at whom the new accession is aimed: the accustomed company who is allegedly ambitious to see art after any acknowledging bookish accoutrement or the added adult admirers who will accept why it’s absorbing to, say, adhere a 1967 Faith Ringgold painting abreast Picasso’s 1907 “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Some of these juxtapositions are cogent and smart; others assume alone clever.
Now MoMA faces the aforementioned claiming it faced before: how to administer its own success. Like addition highways, which tends to artlessly abet added traffic, accretion MoMA will alone accomplish it added adorable to added people. The new architectonics may handle the crowds able-bodied for a while. But MoMA has become one of the abundant “winner takes all” cultural institutions, and the added it grows, the added it will feel the charge to accumulate growing. And, with that, the burden to do the big, dumb, crowd-pleasing shows like the abhorrent 2015 Bjork exhibition will alone increase.
At some point, if the academy is to abide absolutely accordant to the address of art, it will accept to attack with this cycle, and arrest it. That will beggarly recommitting to aboriginal principles, or at atomic some attempt that advertence not aloof admission to art, but the absolute acquaintance of cerebration about it. MoMA knows how to get bodies through the door, but no one seems awfully anxious with what happens back they leave. Did their eyeballs artlessly lounge over lots of arresting things, or did they apprentice something?
The Architectonics of Avant-garde Art, at 11 W. 53rd St. in New York, reopens Oct. 21. moma.org.
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