New Yorkers Aren’t Thrilled About the New Museum’s Expansion

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This week, the New Museum in New York City announced its temporary closure through early 2025 for a site expansion that has been in the works since 2008. The project will encompass the since-razed property adjacent to its current SANAA-designed building, adding a seven-story annex at 231 Bowery to nearly double its exhibition space and create a dedicated home for the “NEW INC” incubator as well as artist residency studios and other areas for programming.

The description might sound impressive, but many New Yorkers were less than thrilled by the renderings of the new expansion shared on the New Museum’s Instagram yesterday, March 21, with some viewing the project as “hostile” and “corporate” when juxtaposed with the original building as well as the surrounding Bowery neighborhood.

In 2008, less than a year after the institution settled into its new Bowery location, it purchased the neighboring building without a set plan, utilizing it for additional storage and office space. According to the New York Times, the structure once housed a restaurant supply company and studio spaces for artists including James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann, and the museum was seeking to integrate more of its programming into the space before the expansion plan was finalized.

The museum announced its intentions to expand in 2016, after raising millions of dollars, and eventually tapped architects Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) as designers in collaboration with Cooper Robertson. OMA revealed the expansion renderings in 2019, indicating that the original 231 Bowery building would be replaced with an “angular extension” that integrates with SANAA’s architectural design of the flagship museum space. The designs were lauded by the likes of Architectural Digest and other players in the field, but drew ire from the Lower East Side locals who derided it as “soulless,” “out of character for the rest of the block,” and an “oversized hulk” when the news was reported on EV Grieve.

By the time 231 Bowery had been razed in late 2022, some community members really laid into the new designs, with one commenter on EV Grieve noting that the shape of the annex “would look more in place on a prostate MRI than on the Bowery.”

Yesterday, after the New Museum announced its temporary closure on its social media accounts, various commenters referred to the projected expansion’s appearance as “hostile.” One user, @p_rane__, responded that the “MoMa-fication of the New Museum feels like a slap in the face to not the neighborhood ecology but also its mission,” also noting OMA renderings’ incongruence to the flagship building’s clean-but-cramped design per Japanese architecture firm SANAA. Another, @less_ads_please, stated that while the SANAA building was “cute but awkward,” the expansion is “the parametric pilling tech bro about to ‘expand’ to Texas.”

Not all were critical of the new plans — dozens of people shared their excitement for the potential of the museum’s expansion and how it would mitigate pinch points that existed in the original space.

The New Museum has not yet announced a concrete reopening date for 2025, but a spokesperson told Hyperallergic that museum exhibitions would be situated at other institutions for the time being and that offsite and online programs were ongoing.

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