When the American Folk Art Museum opened its new building on West 53rd Street in December 2001, it was widely hailed as a sign of hope, both for the museum and New York.

Here was evidence the city could recover from the terrorist attack of a few months earlier: a shiny bronze structure smack in the heart of Midtown that would be the first major art museum to open in Manhattan since the Whitney Museum in 1966.

Today that building is owned by another institution. The museum has defaulted on its construction bonds, moved into its old, smaller space near Lincoln Center and is talking of dissolving and transferring its collections to another institution.

The final outcome still is not clear. But the museum’s descent into financial trouble is a parable about how poor decisions and unfortunate timing can undermine even the most noble of ambitious undertakings.


Robin Pogrebin
New York Times