PRINT February 2003


the New Museum of Contemporary Art

At a time when long-established organizations such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have been forced to shelve expansion plans in line with austere budgets, the New Museum of Contemporary Art has announced plans to construct a state-of-the-art $35 million facility at 235 Bowery, just a few blocks east of its current base at 583 Broadway.

The Bowery site, at present an eight-thousand-square-foot parking lot, is located between Stanton and Rivington Streets at the beginning of Prince Street. Plans call for a sixty-thousand-square-foot building, twice the size of the museum’s SoHo digs. Construction will be financed by the pending sale of the current site—the value of which has increased exponentially since the institution moved there in 1983—as well as via a $12 million capital campaign and a bond offering. The museum is also angling for post–9/11 government funds.

The new building will incorporate increased exhibition and education spaces, a theater, a new-media center, a bookstore, and a café. Five architects—Abalos & Herreros, Adjaye Associates, Gigon/Guyer, Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA Ltd., and Reiser + Umemoto RUR Architecture P.C.—selected from an initial pool of thirty, have been invited to compete for the job. Lisa Phillips, Henry Luce III Director of the museum, promises that the building’s design will reflect the contemporaneity of the institution’s program. “We looked for younger and underrecognized architectural firms,” she says, “the best of the next generation.” The winner is expected to be named within a year, and the project is slated for completion in late 2005.

The museum’s current location is within spitting distance of Dean & Deluca; its new home will be two doors down from the Bowery Mission. Given its role in putting Lower Broadway on the art-world map, the New Museum’s hope for contributing to the revitalization of Lower Manhattan and the Bowery’s potential as a cultural boulevard seems well grounded. “It’s still a more marginal area than Broadway,” Phillips acknowledges, “but it’s poised for a change.”

Michael Wilson is a New York–based writer.