MoMA Moves Forward With Folk Art Museum Demolition

The Midtown building of the American Folk Art Museum in New York. Photo by David Shankbone, courtesy Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Today, visitors to New York’s Museum of Modern Art will witness the first signs of the institution’s impending construction project, as scaffolding is being erected next door in front of the former home of the American Folk Art Museum (AFAM), Unfortunately for fans of the 2001 Tod Williams and Billie Tsien building, MoMA is following through with its much-maligned decision to destroy the structure as part of its planned expansion, the Art Newspaper reports.

Plans filed with the city’s buildings department last week for construction work include a “partial demolition” of the narrow building, which bridges the gap between the MoMA’s current building and the planned Jean Nouvel–designed tower just to the west. The cost of the work will be $1.6 million. Installing the scaffolding is projected to take roughly two weeks, after which time the former museum will be deconstructed, a process that should be complete by summer.

Although the initial onslaught of vocal criticism of the building’s planned destruction prompted MoMA to reassess their decision, a careful evaluation from Diller Scofidio + Renfro found that there was no realistic way to incorporate the idiosyncratic floor plan of the smaller structure into the new MoMA complex. (The museum seems unwilling to reconsider expansion plans from before the cash-strapped AFAM sold its flagship building to MoMA in 2011, as pointed out by Metropolis. Initially, the Nouvel expansion was to have a separate entrance, with no continuous loop circulation between the two buildings.)

In a small concession to public pressure, MoMA will save the 63 bronze panels that make up the building’s facade, although they will not become part of the institution’s collection, and no plans have been made as to what will be done with them.

As reported by artnet News, New York Magazine critic Jerry Saltz recently called for an artist-led boycott of the demolition plans. Despite widespread opposition from critics, preservationists, and architects, it would appear that MoMA’s plans will proceed on schedule.

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