In this episode, we look at the ongoing debate over the proposed expansion plans of two beloved NYC museums: MoMA and the Frick.
Scroll down further for our Postscript (stuff that didn't make it into the episode), in which Sarah discusses another the Morgan Library and Museum, which went through a series of renovations that were completed in 2006.
Sarah: I want to bring up the Morgan Library and Museum, which went through similar renovations that were completed in 2006. This was a project that sought to bring together the disparate buildings that made up the museum. The Morgan was originally a space that is still called "Mr. Morgan's library," which was Pierpont Morgan's study and where he displayed his books, some of his paintings, his collection of ancient near Eastern cylinder seals, etc. This building was designed by the architecture firm McKim, Mead and White, and was completed a few years before Morgan's death. Later on, two buildings were added: the Annex (on the site of the brownstone house where Morgan had lived) and the Morgan House at 37th Street and Madison Avenue where Morgan's son had lived. These buildings were all adjacent to each other, but not connected in the most ideal way.
The renovation that was completed in 2006 was designed by the internationally renowned architect Renzo Piano (who also designed building that houses the Menil Collection in Houston, TX). It was an interesting renovation in that it brought together these Beaux-Arts buildings through a very modern addition. When you go into the Morgan now, there's a new entrance foyer and a grand atrium that are very modern and open, but the original galleries and Mr. Morgan's library still retain that Beaux-Arts style. It is a renovation that, at least from what I've seen, a lot of critics have applauded. I was doing research to see what the critical reception has been, and people seemed to really appreciate it––it brought the buildings together, and also created a larger auditorium space on one of the lower floors (making public programming more available).
But the one criticism that really stuck out to me (and coheres nicely to what we've been discussing today) came from Julie V. Iovine, writing for the Architect's Newspaper: “So what's missing then? Crowd-pleasing (event-friendly) piazza and café: check. Sculptural object cube: check. Cool performance space, naturally. A fancy restaurant and much-expanded shop are a quick detour right off the entrance: good plan. Oh, yes, the collection. Barely encountered.” And it is something you realize when you go into the Morgan: you really have to meander around this new expanded atrium in order to find the gallery spaces. So, it goes back to the question that Tina's been discussing: what is the purpose of this space?
Frick Building History
Frick Building Announcement
MoMA Building History
MoMA Building Announcement
Change.org Petition to Save the Frick
Jan. 8: The New MoMA Expansion is a Mess, NY Mag
Jan. 13: MoMA's Expansion Plan Disaster, The New Republic
April 21: MoMA's Expansion and Director Draw Critics, NYT
July 31: The Case Against a Mammoth Frick Addition, NYT
Nov. 11: Former Frick Director Speaks Out Against Expansion Plan, Artnet
Nov. 16: The Garden at the Frick, and How It Grew, NYT
Nov. 21: Save the Frick Garden, NYT
Dec. 10: American Museum of Natural History Plans an Addition, NYT