Culture Critics Weigh-in on “Museum Musical Chairs”

I’m still a skosh upset by the American Folk Art Museum‘s decision to sell their gorgeous building on 53rd street to the greedy behemoth that is the Museum of Modern Art. But let’s hear from a few folks who have a little more clout, shall we?

Wall Street Journal contributor and Culturegrrrl author Lee Rosenbaum says:

My guess is that MoMA will eventually knock down the failed museum’s building and add the land (and air rights) to the Nouvel construction project, if the developer, Hines, should eventually decide to proceed. A MoMA spokesperson informed me: “The details for how the building will be used have not been determined, though we expect to use it for exhibition space.”

Rosenbaum agree’s with the New York Magazine writer Jerry Saltz that AFAM’s failing was its design:

Despite the many rave reviews the 30,000-square-foot building received when it opened in December 2001, it was immediately clear to many that the building was not only ugly and confining, it was also all but useless for showing art — especially art as visionary as this museum’s.


At least my one-time instructor Justin Davidson charged in like a white knight to right Saltz’s wrong:

Let’s start with the obvious: In order to construct the building that opened in 2001, the museum crippled itself with $32 million in debt and has defaulted on the loan. That’s not an architectural misdeed; it’s terrible fiscal stewardship. Blaming the designers is like faulting Mercedes-Benz for making such lovely cars that minimum-wage workers go bankrupt buying them.

I have always found the Folk Art Museum’s facade an alluring exception to the tough sleekness of midtown (and of the Museum of Modern Art down the block). The folded metallic panels have a textured, tactile, handmade feel, just like much of the art inside.

I agree! My February review of the AFAM building was actually written for Davidson’s class.

Another Instructor or mine and revered design writer, Alexandra Lange, wrote:

Herbert Muschamp’s New York Times review heralded the building as the beginning of New York’s post-9/11 rebirth. But in a spatial sense, the writing was on the wall for the building the minute MoMA’s expansion opened in 2004.

Of course the OTHER move on everybody’s mind right now is the Met’s lease of the current Whitney Museum while the Whitney continues construction of its new building on The High Line.

Its like everyone’s switching dates on prom night!


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