Moma reopened its doors October 21st after a $450m expansion which added another 47,000 square feet of gallery space. Despite its goal to ease congestion, I must admit I spent the morning fighting the crowds, everyone eager to view more of the vast collection the Moma has resolved to hang. The updates allow for 2,400 works – give or take – to be on view at any one time. This is about 1,000 more than the museum was previously able to support. I honestly can not report back on the architecture of the space, save the reconstructed Bauhaus staircase which is undeniably beautiful..…but other than this observation, I forgot to look and spent my time noticing the work on the walls, rather than the new walls themselves. I was not disappointed. It was so wonderful to see a Lee Krasner painting hanging with one of Jackson Pollock’s drip canvases, a Carmen Herrera in conversation with an Ellsworth Kelly and work of varying disciplines co mingling together without hierarchy. The usual linear, white male, eurocentric, art historical narrative I was accustomed to viewing is now interspersed with surprises, a wider net has been cast and the work feels reinvigorated. “A new generation of curators is discovering the richness of what is in our collection, and there is great work being made around the world that we need to pay attention to,” said Glenn D. Lowry, director of the museum. “It means that the usual gets supplanted now by the unexpected.”
MoMA has announced a new partnership that allows the Studio Museum in Harlem to present exhibitions while its own building is under construction. The first exhibition is being presented in the new Projects Gallery and features the Kenyan-born artist Michael Armitage, curated by Thelma Golden. For me the best moment of my visit came when I stumbled upon this exhibition. Comprised of eight paintings that, in the artist’s words, explore “parallel cultural histories.” The work spoke to me on so many levels. When I was living in Lamu in my early 20’s, in what was then a small fishing village up the coast from Mombasa – the Beach Boys that Michael Armitage has represented here were just a part of life there – I never gave them a disparaging thought, nor had I thought of them since. To see them represented echoing Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon-both currently on view at the MoMA- has given me cause to reflect. Armitage’s intention here is to rebuke the way (mainly female) prostitutes have been portrayed art historically. If we look at the two pieces in tandem, Picasso’s 5 women are posed in a rigid, confrontational manner with expressionless, black, empty eyes. They appear aggressive and intimidating, unattractive and almost inhuman. Armitage’s Beach Boys, an intentional 5 in total, are the polar opposite, portrayed in an affable, forgiving and humane manner reminding us to withhold our judgements and to approach others with respect not derision. Mr. Lowry said this collaboration also allows MoMA “to expand our knowledge about a range of artists we may only be vaguely familiar with.” I feel a room like this reflects the new, exciting platform that the MoMa is presenting: broad, inclusive views of the art of our time in a way that is always evolving and is all encompassing.