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The American Folk Art Museum (Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times)

After impassioned protests from prominent architects, preservationists and design critics, the Museum of Modern Art said on Thursday that it would reconsider its decision to demolish its next-door neighbor, the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, to make room for an expansion.

n a board meeting on Thursday morning, the directors were told that a board committee had selected the design firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro to handle the expansion and to help determine whether to keep any of the existing structure.

“We’re going to try to create the best building we can create,” Jerry I. Speyer, the real estate developer and MoMA chairman, said in an interview. “Whether we include Folk Art or not, as is, is an open question.”

That question, MoMA said, will be guided by the extension’s architects. “The principals of Diller Scofidio & Renfro have asked that they be given the time and latitude to carefully consider the entirety of the site, including the former American Folk Art Museum building, in devising an architectural solution to the inherent challenges of the project,” said Glenn D. Lowry, MoMA’s director, in a memo sent on Thursday to his trustees and staff. “We readily agreed to consider a range of options, and look forward to seeing their results.”


Robin Pogrebin
New York Times

James Rosenquist will talk about “F-111” when it goes on show in MoMA as it was originally installed in 1965

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) will reinstall James Rosenquist’s F-111, 1964-65, recreating the way it was first installed in Leo Castelli’s Upper East Side gallery in 1965. Due to be unveiled shortly (the exact date has not yet been confirmed), the event complements the New York museum’s oral history project. MoMA’s curators and archivists are interviewing artists alongside their work in the collection. In addition to recording Rosenquist alongside F-111, they plan to interview Ed Ruscha and Vito Acconci. Dan Graham, Yvonne Rainer and Vija Celmins have already been interviewed.

The museum has collected oral histories for more than 20 years, but the 90 interviews in its archive primarily document “the machinations of the institution”, says Michelle Elligott, MoMA’s senior archivist, who is leading the institution’s Artist Oral History Initiative. The new project aims “to increase our understanding of artists’ ideas, intentions, working methods and specifically the materials and any sort of history or context that goes along with these products,” says Elligott. The project, which has a year’s initial funding thanks to an anonymous donor, began in the spring. If further funding is secured, the museum hopes to interview more artists on its 30-strong shortlist.


Erika Cooke
The Art Newspaper

Pipilotti Rist’s “Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters),” top left, welcomed viewers to cushioned divans; right, Martin Kippenberger’s “Happy End of Franz Kafka’s ‘Amerika;’ below left, Marina Abramovic. (Clockwise, from top left; Sara Krulwich/The New York Times; Patrick Andrade for The New York Times; Ruth Fremson/The New York Times.)

When I walk through the Museum of Modern Art these days, it sometimes feels as if the place has come back from the dead — even if I’m not always so crazy about the life it happens to be leading. There’s often a confusing, disjunctive quality to it, especially where contemporary art is concerned, as the museum’s programming lurches from crowd-drawing, performance-art spectacles in the atrium to relatively dry and didactic exhibitions in its galleries. But at least there’s a pulse.

The museum feels much, much more animated than it did back in 2005 and ’06, when it — and we — were first adjusting to its slick new home on West 53rd Street. That structure, designed by Yoshio Taniguchi and built at a cost of $425 million, opened in November 2004, and over the next two years it appeared to many depressed MoMA watchers that we were witnessing nothing less than a major museum’s suicide by architecture.


Roberta Smith
New York Times

“Half Houses” by Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, of the firm Elemental. It is one of eleven building projects that transform poor communities in “Small Scale, Big Change,” an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Photographer: Cristobal Palma/Museum of Modern Art via Bloomberg

In one of Africa’s most remote places, a three-room school rises from a hot, dry plain. The metal roof arches over spidery steel rods and mud-brick walls. It’s stark, gorgeous, simple.

We are looking at hope in the tiny village of Gando, Burkina Faso, West Africa, one of the exhibits in “Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement” at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art.

After making good as an architect, the designer returned to build the school his poor village so desperately needed.

At another school in Rudrapur, Bangladesh, fabrics in vibrant blue, red and lavender flutter from the doorways and cover the ceiling. Inspired by local adobe traditions, Bavarian architect Anna Heringer used thick walls to deflect the searing sun. Local residents framed an upper level in lightweight bamboo poles lashed together.

The result is an environment in which any kid would be happy to learn.


James S. Russell

Bathers with a Turtle, 1907-08, Matisse (Photo: Saint Louis Art Museum)

In 2003, the Museum of Modern Art put on an important show comparing Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, maybe the two greatest European painters of the 20th century. They were friends and rivals; they influenced and even collected each other’s work.

Now a marvelous new show at MoMA — “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917” — suggests one central way Matisse was very different from Picasso. The Spanish master, practically a synonym for modern art, had an unstoppable sense of direction. He’d pursue one style — a Blue Period, a Rose Period, Cubism — and when he got to the bottom of it, he’d move on to another.

But in the four-year period this Matisse show investigates, that artist’s development emerges as much less linear, much less divided into straightforward chapters. Matisse seemed to be trying all sorts of different things at the same time, and he produced some of his greatest paintings. But it would be hard for anyone not an art historian to place the work in chronological order.


Lloyd Schwartz

Eight years in the making … Matisse’s Bathers by a River. Photograph: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

The Museum of Modern Art in New York has a cracking Matisse exhibition on at the moment. Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917 concentrates on four years of the painter’s life, in which he scratched and gouged his way to a whole new style. Or, I should say, set of styles – so extraordinarily various are the ways he attacked his art in those years.

Superbly curated, the show is especially fascinating because real trouble has been taken to put these paintings in the context of the works that influenced their creation, as well as in the context of Matisse’s previous experiments with subject matter and composition. “Cezanne, hmm, yes,” you say, looking hard at an oddly proportioned Cezanne and seeing, sort of, how it relates to the figure in the Matisse to its right. “Legs too short.”

You start to get a sense of how urgently Matisse is trying to convey how he actually saw – how the quotidian physical world, for him, was vibrating with possibility; how volumes, planes and blocks of colour interrelate; how gestures in paint could negotiate between the typical and the particular.


Sam Leith

In what some critics describe as a long overdue effort, the Museum of Modern Art in New York is this month publishing “Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art.” The 500-page book, in the works for more than four years, is the centerpiece of a larger initiative to shine a light on women artists. From last December through summer, 2011, MoMA’s curatorial departments are mounting 15 large and small exhibitions that highlight and temporarily increase the presence of works by women in the museum.


Judith H. Dobrzynski

I attended a reception at the Museum of Modern Art for Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art. The event was heartening — many women in the art/museum world, and plenty of men, too, showed up to celebrate.

Still, I can’t help but think this is “too little, too late.” I wrote an article about the effort for the June issue of The Art Newspaper, which is out now. The story is not online — you have to go buy the paper, which is a fat 120 pages. It’s got to have something for everyone.

But here I’ll share a few things about Modern Women, some in the story and some in the outtakes…


Judith H. Dobrzynski
Real Clear Arts

(Photographs by Marco Anelli)

Performance art, as currently practiced, emerged as an avant garde movement in the 1960s and ’70s, and some of its features made it difficult to visualize how it might make the transition from galleries and public spaces to the more institutional environment of the museum.

For one thing, the medium of the artist is his or her own body, sometimes nude or engaged in highly dangerous circumstances. Pictures of nude bodies doing dangerous things raise no such obstacles in a museum space, but performance art itself is real in all dimensions. Before it can be translated and presented in a museum, a number of problems, both practical and philosophical, must be worked out.


Arthur C. Danto
New York Times

Marina Abramovic and Ulay, “Relation in Time,” 1977. Still from 16mm film transferred to video. (Photo: Marina Abramovic, Sean Kelly Gallery/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

Caught in the ambient glow of overhead light fixtures, two figures sit staring at each other across a table. One of the figures is dressed in a long, flowing red gown reminiscent of clerical wear. The other is weeping inconsolably. For a moment, the world is theatrically halted, slowed to the pulse of dual heartbeats. Looking away quickly from the reverie on display, one acknowledges the frame: the cameras and the awaiting queue to the shrine in the Museum of Modern Art’s atrium, where Marina Abramovic is sitting for 716 hours and 30 minutes for her new durational work, The Artist is Present, as members of the public take turns courting her — and challenging her — with their gaze.

The already notorious performance is part of the first full-scale retrospective of a performance artist ever organized at MoMA, spanning four decades of Abramovic’s prolific and demanding practice, from her early ‘70s conceptual and sometimes death-defying “Rhythm” works through her collaborations with former partner and lover Ulay to Seven Easy Pieces, her 2005 Guggenheim restaging of seminal performance works by Joseph Beuys, Vito Acconci, and herself. Interspersed throughout the exhibit are reproduced versions of Abramovic’s key works, presented by a host of often naked people she has trained to perform her work.


Mark Beasley