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new york’s moma is closing to diversify the art canon

Tired of an art world that only celebrates old white men? Honestly, same.

by Roisin Lanigan
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07 February 2019, 12:23pm

Still from William Pope.L, The Great White Way, 22 miles, 9 years, 1 street, 2001-2002

New York’s iconic Museum of Modern Art will close this summer for four months, it has been announced. The museum’s galleries will shut their doors on 15 June this year, reopening in October as a more inclusive space celebrating contemporary artists who have traditionally been overlooked in the art world.

MoMA’s renovation, which will cost a cool $400 million, allocates 40,000 square feet of new space within the institution which will be dedicated to works by women and artists of colour. The overhaul will also see the museum change the discipline-based display system that it had used since its opening, instead embracing mixed media and modernism.

“A new generation of curators is discovering the richness of what is in our collection,” MoMA’s director Glenn Lowry told the New York Times. “There is great work being made around the world that we need to pay attention to. It means that the usual gets supplanted by the unexpected.”

While MoMA’s iconic pieces, such as van Gogh’s Starry Night, will still be there, the overhaul will allow visitors to see artwork by less familiar names. Specifically, the museum will reopen with two exhibitions by African-American artists Pope L and Betye Saar. The renovation is committed to showing the museum’s huge audience something new every time they visit, with exhibitions planned to rotate and change every six to nine months. By 2022, this means that the entire gallery space will have been re-choreographed.

Along with the change to the gallery space, MoMA’s renovation coincides with a new partnership with the Studio Museum in Harlem, where the first joint project will celebrate Kenyan-born artist Michael Armitage. “We don’t want to forget our roots in having the greatest Modernist collection, but the museum didn’t emphasise female artists, didn’t emphasise what minority artists were doing,” said MoMA’s chairman Leon Black. “Where those were always the exceptions, now they really should be part of the reality of the multicultural society we all live in.”