MoMA Mia! The Modern Buys Building from Ailing American Folk Art Museum

05/11/2011 12:19 PM |

American Folk Art Museum getting squeezed off 53rd Street.

It’s been over a year now since the the American Folk Art Museum made a payment on the $32 million loan it took out to build its soaring, narrow new building right next to MoMA on 53rd Street back in 2001, and yesterday the larger museum announced it would buy its defaulting neighbor’s home.

The Times‘ Kate Taylor writes that MoMA is buying the American Folk Art Museum’s 45 West 53rd Street building for an undisclosed price that’s at least the $32 million to pay back the original AFAM loan. The smaller museum will now be confined to its Lincoln Square branch, which is roughly one sixth the size of the Midtown space, and for which they pay a whopping $1 in rent every year.

Tower Verre, designed by Jean Nouvel, would provide MoMA with several additional floors of galleries.
  • Tower Verre, designed by Jean Nouvel, would provide MoMA with several additional floors of galleries.

Meanwhile, MoMA’s plans for the distinctive Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects AFAM building are uncertain. If it’s torn down, the additional space could presumably be incorporated into the construction project slated for the empty lot just to the west, where a Jean Nouvel-designed skyscraper will rise sooner or later (so-called “Tower Verre,” rendered at right), with additional MoMA galleries in its lower floors. Or it could be kept and used as a connector between the main MoMA compound and those future galleries.

In any case it’s a terrific solution for MoMA, less so for the AFAM; its chairman, Laura Parsons, tells the Times that there’s no immediate deadline for the museum to vacate its building, but that in the future they may mount temporary exhibitions at different locations throughout the city, or even send its collections on tour.