MoMA Reconsiders Razing Neighbor
Friday, May 10, 2013
What do you do when your favorite museum of contemporary art and design decides to destroy one of your favorite examples of contemporary design?
New Yorkers have asked themselves that question after the Museum of Modern Art recently announced that it would be razing its slight Manhattan neighbor, the building housing the Museum of American Folk Art. The Folk Art building, erected just 12 years ago, is considered one of the finest new buildings in the city, a gem by the husband-and-wife team of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. The building is “about the beauty of craft, it has almost a hand-tooled feel to it,” says New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman. “It’s unlike other buildings on the street and around New York. That sense of variety and surprise is part of what makes a street a wonderful place.”
The public outcry against a venerable institution seems to have surprised the board of MoMA. “Cultural institutions and boards become hermetically sealed,” he tells Kurt Andersen. “They listen to each other, persuade themselves of their own plans, and lose touch with the public [they] supposedly serve.”
The dominant philosophy among cultural institutions now is that “expansion is necessary, good, inevitable.” Kimmelman says that focus on growth and revenue was, in this case, tempered by a very vocal public. “It is a lesson,” Kimmelman says, “that it’s useful to speak up against very powerful institutions. Once in while, you win.”
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