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Thread: The Met's Expansion Plan

  1. #1

    Default The Met's Expansion Plan

    February 24, 2004

    The Met's Expansion Plan


    Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a model of the new Roman Court.

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art is creating thousands of square feet of new exhibition space, including a grand Roman Court and renovated Islamic galleries, substantially increasing the number of artworks it is able to display.

    The $155 million construction project, to be announced today, will allow the museum to display world-famous pieces like its richly decorated Etruscan chariot, which has been in storage since the early 1990's.

    The project, along the south end of the building, will expose the windows facing Central Park for the first time in 50 years. The construction is part of a 10-year-old plan aimed at using every inch of the museum's existing space in Central Park.

    The museum will also renovate galleries devoted to 19th-century art, modern art and modern photography. Work is scheduled to begin within days in the space where the old restaurant was. There, a new Roman Court a skylit room with double-height ceilings punctuated with limestone columns is to be installed to house Hellenistic and Roman art, increasing the works on view to 7,500 from 2,500. It is scheduled to open in spring 2007.

    The museum is not permitted by the city to extend its footprint in the park, a challenge that Philippe de Montebello, the Met's director, called a domino game.

    The Met recently completed renovating its galleries devoted to Egyptian, Chinese, Cypriot, Korean and Indian art. A new restaurant opened in June in the area under the Medieval sculpture court.

    The money for the recent renovations and the new project comes from private sources, officials at the museum said. The Met is increasing its decade-old fund-raising drive by $250 million, making it a $900 million campaign, which experts say is thought to be the largest in the history of museums. Most of the $250 million will be for construction costs, but $22 million will go toward increasing the museum's $1.5 billion endowment to finance the operation of the new spaces.

    "This is the grand orchestral coda to the reinstallation of our Classical galleries," Mr. de Montebello said late last week. He said he has spent years studying historic buildings from Roman villas to the Colosseum to come up with the most appropriate architecture for the new Roman Court. Mr. de Montebello also assessed every nook and cranny, from air shafts to stairwells, to determine how best to use the museum's space to keep pace with its vast and growing collections.

    The design of the Roman Court echoes in spirit what McKim, Mead & White, who designed and built the space, originally envisioned for it in the early years of the 20th century. After World War I, however, money was scarce and their elaborate design was abandoned. It will be called the Leon Levy and Shelby White Roman Court, named after a financier and collector who died last April and his wife, a longtime Met trustee.

    The museum will also renovate its galleries of Etruscan and Islamic art, which have not been touched in 30 years. The Met closed its Islamic galleries in June, but some of its collection has been moved to vitrines on the balcony above the Great Hall, once dominated by Asian ceramics.

    At the same time the Met is gearing up for "Byzantium: Faith and Power, 1261-1557," which is to open on March 23. The new Islamic galleries, scheduled for completion in late 2007 or early 2008, will house 12,000 objects, including paintings, calligraphy, ceramics, tiles, glass and metalwork dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries.

    Part of the intention, said Harold Holzer, the museum's vice president for communication, "is to show a side of Islamic culture not often discussed these days."

    Included in the plans are new spaces for the 19th- and 20th-century art collections. The museum will also rebuild the Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education, visited by 125,000 schoolchildren every year.

    Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo & Associates, the firm that has masterminded and overseen the Met's expansions and renovations for the last 30 years, developed the design for the project. In addition to the Roman Court, the adjacent galleries along Fifth Avenue and the space on the mezzanine and the first floor, which had been offices and bathrooms, will become galleries for the museum's collection of Etruscan art, Hellenistic art and arts of south Italy and Sicily.

    The art on view, much of which has not been seen for decades, will include portraits of Roman emperors including Augustus, Caligula and Antoninus Pius, as well as a display of Roman funerary sculpture featuring the ornate Badmington Sarcophagus, which depicts the triumph of the god Dionysus. In the galleries along Fifth Avenue the museum's collection of frescos excavated at Boscoreale, including its famous Pompeiian bedroom, will be on display. Until recently the bedroom was on view next to the museum's coat check room. The Etruscan chariot will occupy center stage in the mezzanine galleries overlooking the Roman Court.

    In addition to rethinking its space, the museum's curators have changed the way they will present their collections. Rather than show things by medium putting, say, all the bronzes or all the vases together the installations will be more cross-cultural, so that objects can be seen in the context of their time. "You travel through a much broader spectrum," Mr. de Montebello said. "It is the way people think today."

    Above the Oceanic galleries, the Met plans to construct new galleries, adding 9,000 square feet of space for 19th-century art, modern art and photography. "This will give us elbow room in which to grow our collection of 21st-century art," Mr. de Montebello said.

    So far the museum has raised about $680 million, and E. John Rosenwald Jr., a trustee who is the executive chairman of the campaign, does not foresee a problem raising the rest. "We'll get there," he said. "We've have an uptick in the economy, and we're constantly trying to grow our market." The Dillons, the Astors and the Annenbergs were huge benefactors in the past, but Mr. Rosenwald stressed that the museum would "have to drill new wells."

    Like most of New York's cultural institutions, the Met is experiencing flattening revenues and rising expenses. Still, Mr. Rosenwald believes now is the time to forge ahead. "We don't want to lose momentum," he said. "We have a marvelous development team in place and an enthusiastic board, so the decision to keep going was easy. It will only make the museum a more exciting place."

    Neighboring residents, who have been vocal in their dislike of the museum's recent projects, are not likely to be happy about construction noise and cranes in the middle of Fifth Avenue. Last year the Metropolitan Museum Historic District Coalition, a group that represents some residents of 15 buildings mostly along Fifth Avenue, sued the city and the museum to block a plan, since postponed, to add space under the Fifth Avenue fountains and under the Lehman Wing for storage, offices and the Costume Institute.

    The group charged that the museum failed to formally assess the environmental and land-use codes. The suit also claimed that the museum was violating a 1971 agreement with the city that restricted its ability to expand. "A decision on the status of the suit is expected soon," said Mr. Holzer, the vice president for communications.

    Pat Nicholson, who founded the coalition and who has lived across the street from the museum since 1988, said of the new plans: "One more time the museum is doing what the museum wants to do. It is doing it without any environmental review. It is time for the city agency to start doing their duty."

    Mr. Holzer said that "the museum has consistently sought and received government approvals." And, Mr. de Montebello stressed, "We are building only from within." He added, "nothing is higher than the current roofline."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

    The NIMBY Issue

  2. #2


    Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo & Associates, are the architects of the detested Kimmel Center on Washington Square, the infamous Knights of Columbus Headquarters in New Haven, as well as a number of less odious designs.

  3. #3
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI


    This one is more internal tweaking, really.

    At any rate, it's always great to see NYC cultural institutions expanding. $900 million is unreal, thought MoMa's $800 million was alot! Very exciting.

  4. #4
    Banned Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    The Met really ought to try investing in more quality works by artists rather than such a ridiculous quantity. The building itself is the objectification of some of the most massive egos in NYC. Do people give anymore without requiring their names plastered on the walls, doors, and toilet seats?

    I find the Cleveland Museum of Art, Chicago Institute of Art, and Philadelphia Museum to be much more enjoyable experiences. Bigger is not necessarily better with museums and more pieces of art by any given artist is not better than a single masterpiece by the same artist. In an age marked by the gulf between the rich and the poor, I find the expansion and the price tag associated with it to be rather repulsive.

    900 million buys A LOT of affordable housing.

  5. #5


    The Met Readies Renovated Wing

    By Jen Carlson on May 7, 2009


    The Met sure is having a big week! First their Costume Institute Ball brought all the big names out, and then the NY Times reported on their recent renovation. They explain that in the 1970s the museum "unveiled a plan to create its own Crystal Palace in Central Park—a glass-enclosed, glass-roofed space to house its expanded American Wing—Community Planning Board 8 voted 24 to 1 against the proposal, and one board member called it a rape of the park." That board member was likely feeling violated around 1980, when the American Wing opened, and perhaps even more so now, following two years of construction and renovations it will open up to the public on May 19th.

    The space now has 30% more room to display artwork, though the $100 million project won't be completely finished until 2011. One thing visitors will notice are the period rooms, which the paper notes were formerly disorganized but "have been rearranged so that visitors take an architectural journey, beginning with 17th-century Puritan Massachusetts and ending with an early-20th-century living room from a house in Wayzata, Minn., designed by Frank Lloyd Wright." Check out a behind-the-scenes tour after the jump.


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