New Museum Of Contemporary Art Sanaa New York
In 1999, Marcia Tucker was succeeded as director by Lisa Phillips, previously the curator of contemporary art at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2001 the museum rented 7,000 square feet of space on the first floor of the Chelsea Art Museum on West 22nd Street for a year.
new museum of contemporary art sanaa new york
The New Museum's three principal exhibition spaces are simple white-walled free-span galleries, which are located on the second, third, and fourth floors. Each floor has a different ceiling height, as is common in museums of modern and contemporary art. (For a geographically proximate example, look at Marcel Breuer's Whitney Museum of American Art.) Connecting the New Museum's third- and fourth-level galleries is a staircase tucked behind a wall along the building's north edge. Cool staircases have become nearly a sine qua non in contemporary museums, largely because all that most museum curators really want from their architects is blank white walls and free-span spaces. This leaves few opportunities for actual design. Since most museumgoers must at one point or another ascend or descend a staircase, staircases have become a focal point of many recent museum commissions, including Yoshio Taniguchi's Museum of Modern Art in New York, Herzog & de Meuron's de Young Museum in San Francisco, and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien's addition to the Phoenix Art Museum.
There is more in what this building's design reveals about the institution it houses. The New Museum is one of the few museums in New York City, and the only major one in Manhattan, devoted exclusively to the exhibition of contemporary art in all media. In recent years, contemporary art has become the transitional fetish object of so many venture capitalists and hedge fund managers that one should cheer for an institution where, in theory, one can see cutting-edge examples of it in a non-commercial, or at least less commercial, venue. Yet what have the New Museum's curators and administrators chosen to house new art? The most conventional exhibition spaces imaginable: free-span, artificially lit white boxes. Shouldn't a museum of contemporary art challenge one's expectations of contemporary architecture? Shouldn't a museum devoted to the new offer up new experiences along with new objects? That is the real irony of the New Museum: in architectural conception and as a space to exhibit art, it is wholly, uninterestingly conventional--as conventional, indeed, as much of the contemporary art that was displayed in its opening exhibition.
There is much pluralism in contemporary architecture, and in museum design. In the latter instance, the past decade has seen two prominent trends. There is the sometimes tasteful, often merely pretentious shopping-mall mentality of the Renzo Piano-Yoshio Taniguchi set (epitomized by Taniguchi's fatuous promise to the MoMA Board of Trustees that if they raised "really a lot of money" (as opposed to the $858 million that they did raise), he would "make the building disappear." And there is the overwrought complexity offered by the likes of Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, and Coop Himmelb(l)au, architects smitten with the possibilities offered by digital technologies, which they use to create ever more complex, ever more unthinkable buildings. To shopping-mall mediocrity and florid complexity, SANAA's simple geometries, stripping away of ornamental flourishes, and meticulous attention to detail (as in the unforgettable joining of the ground-floor glass panels to the concrete floors), offers a welcome retort. The New Museum is not itself a distinguished or even a very good building. Still, the lesson for contemporary architects should be that neither lavishly expensive shopping centers nor exhibitionist contortions are the only paths into our architectural future.
The New Museum, founded as the New Museum of Contemporary Art by Marcia Tucker in 1977, is the only museum in New York City exclusively devoted to presenting contemporary art from around the world. On December 1, 2007, the New Museum opened its first freestanding, dedicated building at 235 Bowery.
These days, contemporary art museums face the dilemma of trying to anticipate what kind of spaces will be needed for unimaginable creations likely to emerge over the coming decades. The one-size-fits-all approach of hangar-like enclosures with movable partitions is no solution, as demonstrated time and again since the grandpère of them all, the Pompidou Center. It will take time to determine how well the New Museum responds to the demands of an institution founded to disregard, indeed flout, art establishment convention.
JR: Inventive interchanges between circulation space and gallery space are a hallmark of your museum designs. Often architects try to either hybridize them—as in the familiar enfilade of most neoclassical museum buildings—or separate them completely, which usually results in vast galleries with stairs and corridors pushed to the perimeter, as in the Pompidou or other open-plan museums. In Wakayama, it sounds like your approach to this relationship evolved from the exhibition requirements of that specific collection. Kanazawa is a museum explicitly dedicated to contemporary art, which is more amorphous. What did you know about the collection and how did that knowledge inform your approach to the design?
KS: The 21st Century Museum is a public institution. As is typical for a building like this in Japan, the program was defined by the local government. At the time of the competition, almost twenty years ago, contemporary art was still not very popular in Japan. There were many citizens who might protest spending money on that. So the government decided to make two buildings on the site, one a museum and one a kind of community center. We proposed to combine the two, and we won the competition.
Even before setting foot in the inaugural show, one might wonder about the new museum's commitment to the new. The Whitney, for one, has a larger and more intelligent bookstore, with room for more exposure to contemporary art and ideas than the museum's own publications and coffee mugs. As for the new gallery scene, one gets a glimpse of the younger crowd from the New Museum, but only on weekends. A top-floor observation deck then allows fabulous views of the industrial fabric south and east.
It comes with acquaintance, as one starts to realize that the museum is here to stay, and so is the Lower East Side behind it. A cooler eye could well have seen the changes coming. The building already seemed more to bar the way to the gallery action than to provide a gateway. Its cramped stairwells, high-ceilinged interiors, tiny bookstore, and scarcity of sunlight already made it more than a little dysfunctional as a museum. The junkyard of "Unmonumental" or, soon after, "After Nature" already reached too hard for profundity and for the right to define contemporary art. Thursday evenings, when the museum becomes free, gatherers must empty the lobby and form a line in the cold, as for an exclusive club.
Among the institutions added to this new edition are the Giovanni and Marella Agnelli Pinacoteca, perched atop an enormous Fiat factory in Turin, Italy, and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, both by Renzo Piano Building Workshop; three notable updates of the museum as sacred space, two by Yoshio Taniguchi and one by SANAA; the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati by Zaha Hadid; and expansions of the Reina Sofia Museum of Modern Art in Madrid by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis by Herzog & de Meuron, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York by Taniguchi. Finally, the De Young Museum, reflecting its own eclectic conditions, and the 21st Century Museum, consisting of non-hierarchical spaces for every conceivable kind of contemporary artwork as well as facilities for social exchange, are innovative hybrids that propose new directions for the future of museum architecture.
ABOUT THE NEW MUSEUMFounded in 1977, the New Museum is the first and only contemporary art museum in New York City and among the most respected internationally, with a curatorial program unrivaled in the United States in its global scope and adventurousness. With the inauguration of our new, state-of-the-art building on the Bowery, the New Museum is the destination for new art and new ideas. Visit www.newmuseum.org formore information.
Founded in 1977 by Whitney curator Marcia Tucker and housed in five locations over the years, the museum's mission statement is simple: 'New art, new ideas.' True to its word, it gave gallery space to Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Joan Jonas, Mary Kelly and Andres Serrano at the beginning of their careers, and remains Manhattan's only dedicated contemporary-art museum. It closes occasionally to install new exhibitions, so be sure to check the website before you visit.