The Metropolitan Museum of Art launches modern art outpost in iconic Breuer building in New York
When the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, USA moved downtown to new digs designed by Renzo Piano, many wondered if it’s Marcel Breuer-designed building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side was destined to undergo a character altering renovation or meet its fate with the wrecking ball. Purpose built as a museum and a unique one at that, it was hard to imagine that anyone could take up residency in the former Whitney building without significantly changing the iconic Brutalist structure and its signature features. That was until the Whitney found the ideal tenant for the building in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which agreed to lease the building from the Whitney for a period of eight years for use as a contemporary art annex. That annex, dubbed The Met Breuer, will open in March, says the museum, after undergoing a comprehensive refresh by New York architect Beyer Blinder Belle. It is the first renovation of the building since it opened it 1966.
While much of the renovation work is focused on addressing issues of delayed maintenance, such as restoring the building’s signature concrete walls, stone floors, bronze fixtures and lighting and upgrading the building’s infrastructure systems, there will be a few surprises and some familiar things in store for visitors familiar with the building. Taking a cue perhaps from the new Whitney, the lobby and lower levels of The Met Breuer will be free and open to the public. The lobby level will feature art installations and a “book bar” for displaying art books and past exhibition catalogues. On the lower level of the building, there will be a restaurant and an entry to a sunken garden.
For the opening exhibition The Met Breuer will put on view works that span its collection. The inaugural season will present a historic examination of unfinished works of art; the largest exhibition to date dedicated to Indian modernist Nasreen Mohamedi; and a month-long performance installation, by Artist in Residence, Vijay Iyer. Also planned are future exhibitions of Diane Arbus’s rarely seen early photographic works and the first museum retrospective dedicated to Kerry James Marshall.
“Our approach to inhabiting and interpreting the building honours Breuer’s intent for the space, highlighting its unique character as an environment for the presentation of modern and contemporary art,” Thomas P. Campbell, the director of the Met, said in a statement.” The wonderfully scaled galleries and interior spaces of The Met Breuer provide a range of opportunities to present our modern and contemporary program.” With the opening of The Met Breuer the Metropolitan Museum of Art has made it clear that it plans to be a major player on the contemporary art scene, something it is not known for in spite of its having a deep collection of modern art works.
In addition to having a dedicated outpost to modern and contemporary art, the Met will maintain its contemporary galleries at its Fifth Avenue building. They are currently being renovated by British architect David Chipperfield and are scheduled to open in 2020.