Apparently the art world hates the American Folk Art Museum building! (Who knew?!) In the wake of the news that MoMA is buying the Todd Williams Billie Tsien-designed building, two of the art world’s more prominent voices both bashed the building and argued it hastened the Folk Art Museum’s decline. The esteemed Times critic Roberta Smith called it “unwelcoming” and argued that the museum’s fate was sealed by “lackluster, visionless leadership; the weak economy; and inappropriate architecture.” Smith’s husband happens to be Jerry Saltz, the pugnacious art critic for New York, who went much further in a piece titled, “Architecture Killed the American Folk Art Museum.” He called the building, “ugly and confining, it was also all but useless for showing art.”
Not everyone agrees!
The ever incisive New York architecture critic Justin Davidson rallied to the building’s defense, calling its facade an “alluring exception to the tough sleekness of midtown.” He blamed poor fiscal management, not architecture, for the museum’s woes. He added that given the building’s small lot, which by necessity called for a vertical museum, “the architects didn’t just do the best they could; they did far more than anyone had a right to expect.”
But what will happen to this complex little building now that MoMA owns it? MoMA remains noncommittal. Late yesterday AN received a statement from Hines, MoMA’s development partner for the planned Jean Nouvel tower surrounding the site. “Hines wasn’t involved in the transaction, and no, it will not change our plans for the tower. That deal is all MoMA’s,” wrote Kim Jagger, director of corporate communications for Hines, in an email. So perhaps the building have a new life with the Modern. At this point, only MoMA knows.