Thelma Golden Reveals Renderings of the Studio Museum in Harlem’s $175 Million Future Home

David Adjaye is designing the building, expected to open in 2021.

A rendering of the planned new building for the Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates/Studio Museum in Harlem.
A rendering of the future home of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

As the Studio Museum in Harlem approaches its 50th anniversary next year, the long-standing champion of African-American curators and artists is bidding farewell to its current home and breaking ground on a new building on its current 125th Street site, designed by Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye and his firm Adjaye Associates, in conjunction with Cooper Robertson.

The city of New York is stepping in to help fund the construction project, pledging $53.8 million from the Mayor’s Office, the City Council, and the Manhattan Borough President’s Office through the Department of Cultural Affairs, with an additional $9 million anticipated. Altogether, the project is projected to cost $175 million, and the Studio Museum has already raised 70 percent of that goal.

“We are excited about the unique potential that the museum’s new home brings with it,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement. “As they embark on creating a one-of-a-kind space to serve as a platform for the creative work of the artists from around the world, the Studio Museum is poised to have an even greater impact on the Harlem community, the city of New York, and the global cultural conversation.”

A rendering of the planned new building for the Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates/Studio Museum in Harlem.

A rendering of the future Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates and Studio Museum in Harlem.

Since 1982, the museum has operated out of the former New York Bank for Saving, a historic building retrofitted by J. Max Bond Jr. When museum director Thelma Golden spoke to Adjaye about her vision for the space, she instructed him to look to Harlem itself for inspiration, drawing on the neighborhood’s rich street life, as well as the idea of the museum as a sanctuary and stage for the performing arts and black culture. Most importantly, she wanted the museum to enhance “our ability to engage the public in art,” Golden said at a press luncheon announcing the news.

Adjaye has characterized the resulting design as an inverted stoop, inspired by the steps leading up to Harlem’s many brownstones, and a welcoming space that invites visitors in from the street. “Above all, we have sought to create spaces that celebrate the rich heritage of the institution, its relationship with artists, and its role as a pillar of Harlem’s cultural life,” he said in a statement.

Once work is complete, the museum will feature an impressive 115 percent increase in exhibition space, from 8,050 square feet to almost 17,300. The five-floor building will also feature an auditorium and a roof deck with views of Harlem and the city skyline. The museum’s signature artist–in–residence program will be housed on the fourth floor.

The groundbreaking will take place in fall of 2018, with completion planned for 2021. The museum will close for construction this January and continue to hold exhibitions in the meantime at other institutions, such as the Maysles Documentary Cinema and Barnard College.

A rendering of the planned new building for the Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates/Studio Museum in Harlem.

A rendering of the future Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates/Studio Museum in Harlem.

The Studio Museum revealed renderings for its future home yesterday, announcing that the current exhibitions will be the last shows held in the institution’s existing space. “Fictions,” a survey of emerging artists of African descent, and “We Go as They,” featuring the museum’s 2016–17 artists in residence—Autumn Knight, Julia Phillips, and Andy Robert—opened this month and will be on view through early January, alongside “Their Own Harlems” marking the centennial of the birth of Jacob Lawrence.

See more renderings of the new building below.

A rendering of the planned new building for the Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates/Studio Museum in Harlem.

A rendering of the future Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates and Studio Museum in Harlem.

A rendering of the planned new building for the Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates/Studio Museum in Harlem.

A rendering of the future Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates and Studio Museum in Harlem.

A rendering of the planned new building for the Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates/Studio Museum in Harlem.

A rendering of the planned new building for the Studio Museum in Harlem. Courtesy of Adjaye Associates/Studio Museum in Harlem.


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