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NY's New Contemporary Art Museum to Build New Manhattan Home - 2003-11-15

Architects have unveiled the design for the first major art museum ever to be built in downtown Manhattan, The New Museum for Contemporary Art. The museum will open in 2006, around the same time arts facilities at the redeveloped World Trade Center site will near completion.

New York City's new showcase for contemporary art will stand seven stories tall. The building itself will be a symbol of contemporary architecture.

Think of seven large shoeboxes, stacked unevenly on top of each other, coated in galvanized steel, with only a few square windows. Twenty million dollars of the projected $35 million cost has already been raised.

City officials, including Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, view the plans for the new art museum as another positive indicator that lower Manhattan is recovering from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"I think it continues to send the message throughout the city as well as the country and world that, yes, we are continuing to grow here in lower Manhattan and we are willing to build and to put resources that will attract tourists from across the world, that will bring people from across the nation here.," he said.

New York City already has dozens of museums, but most are located in midtown or in upper Manhattan.

New York City Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Kate Levin says contemporary art - even though it doesn't typically sell for large amounts of cash - is still important because it reflects creative, new ways of thinking.

"Art, at the end of the day, is not about the marketplace so it's particularly meaningful that museums like this exist to make sure we can all share in what our most innovative artists are making," she said.

The New Museum of Contemporary Art opened as a small-space exhibit in 1977 and by 1983 moved in an old building in the fashionable SOHO section of Manhattan. The new building will be located on the Bowery, a famous street in a formerly rundown section that is now seeing a revitalization in arts and culture. The structure will fill 5,500 square meters, doubling the museum's currently available exhibit space.

The futuristic structure was designed by Japanese architects from the SANAA firm in Tokyo. Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum, says its unusual exterior should complement the art on display inside.

"SANAA has designed a building for us that is an expression of our vision for the museum's future, and one that will be a compelling addition to the New York City landscape," she explained. "It's an elegant building but not precious, it's practical and bold. It's designed to accommodate and encourage every form of art without any pretense of competing with the art we will show inside and around it."

Builders expect to break ground on the new museum site in October of next year.