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New Museum 1977

by Marcia Tucker, 1940-2006

The tall, silvery building that stands out on the Bowery is the New Museum, which is the only museum in New York devoted to international contemporary art. Although the museum itself opened in 1977 in the tonier area of NYC on Fifth Avenue, this building was commissioned in 2002 with a Japanese design firm. At first the architects were surprised at the location, but the Bowery has always accepted those who didn’t quite fit in—and that is an appropriate setting for a museum that was founded in order to create a home for modern art that pushes traditional boundaries.

The building uses elements of its surroundings but with new interpretations to create a sense of orderliness that still fits in with a busy, rebellious neighborhood. Some say it looks like stacked boxes; other see the cityscape turned on its side. The texture of the neighboring buildings is brick, and the New Museum uses a perforated metal mesh which mimics the roughness, unlike many modern, smooth, glass buildings. In 2008, Condé Nast named the building one of the Architectural New Seven Wonders of the World.

The piece of art on the front rotates regularly, which, in turn, changes the the building itself. The stacked, shifting boxes create open, fluid, and light-filled interior spaces. They vary in height and are all free of columns. The large unobstructed spaces are built to hold large scale installations and sculptures, such as one of the more interactive exhibits which involved a slide going between two of the floors.

When Marcia Tucker created the museum in 1977, she had left a post as a curator at the Whitney. She felt that newer works from living artists seemed more difficult to place within the confines of traditional art, and she wanted to change that. The exhibits chosen for display here push the boundaries of conventionality in art—in much the same way that the building in front of us tests what we expect to see from a traditional museum.


1977 New Museum founded by Marcia Tucker
2007 Moved from 5th Avenue location to 235 Bowery

Reference Links

internal New Museum - Wiki
link New Museum Official Website
internal gDoc