MoMA’s overhaul gives the museum new breadth – literally and figuratively

New York City – The Museum of Modern Art’s expansion is designed to make a visit to the New York institution both more enriching and more democratic. Following its overhaul by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, MoMA now features a series of street-level galleries – free and open to all – to bring art closer to the surrounding community. The Studio, a new space located at the heart of the museum, will feature topical live programming and performances, while the addition of a Creativity Lab responds to the rise of learning spaces for the mobile era.

MoMA’s senior deputy director of exhibitions and collections, Ramona Bronkar Bannayan, has been closely involved in the project over the past three years. ‘Liz Diller has been a terrific partner,’ she says. ‘The process has given us literal breadth with additional space and expanded the way we think about display. We’ll now mix works of different mediums together, connected via a chronological spine. This change raised new challenges surrounding scale, reflection, lighting, film presentations and so on. [We] have relocated around 6,000 objects and reframed some 2,000 works of art. Every element of display has been rethought, from the cadence of paint colours to the presentation pedestals.’

Although the plans may now be set in stone (among other materials), MoMA is constantly adapting to both its content and to museum-goers. Bronkar Bannayan says she reserves time each afternoon for a walk-through to see how the installation design affects the visitor experience. ‘If, say, people are crowded around a specific work, we’ll try to create more space for photo opportunities. There are many subtle ways to advance a visitor through a space without their knowledge. A change in lighting, for example, or the location of text. Museum visitors experience personal moments with works of art in a public forum. Our spaces should respect both the visitor and the art.’

Read about a full day in the life of MoMA’s senior deputy director of exhibitions and collections, Ramona Bronkar Bannayan, in Frame 131, out 1 November.

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