Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced yesterday afternoon that the Brooklyn Museum, the city’s second-largest art museum in physical size at 560,000 square feet, only behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art and home to a half-million works, will receive a $50 million gift from the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. The capital investment, which is earmarked for a “transformative plan that encompasses gallery renovations and infrastructure projects” at the museum, is the single largest gift in the nearly 200-year history of the storied outer-borough cultural institution. Although its history can be traced back several decades prior, the Brooklyn Museum has been in its current Eastern Parkway home, a commanding Beaux-Arts structure designed by McKim, Mead & White, since 1897.
“Art has the power to shape us and bring people together in conversation. The Brooklyn Museum has always exemplified these values, shaping the rich narrative around New York City for residents and visitors alike,” said Mayor de Blasio in a statement. “As New York City’s rich art and culture institutions emerge from the pandemic, this historic $50 million investment will ensure the Brooklyn Museum remains an iconic destination for generations to come.”
As detailed in a press release issued by the Mayor’s Office, the unprecedented funding will be used to revamp 40,000 square feet of existing gallery space, execute numerous infrastructure-related improvement projects across the museum with a focus on improved energy efficiency, carve out additional space for educational programming, and create a permanent exhibition space dedicated to the history of Brooklyn. Renovation work will “significantly upgrade” the museum’s fourth- and fifth-floor galleries dedicated to decorative, European, and American arts, including Indigenous works, with “all-new interiors and state of the art building and climate control systems to support thoroughly reconsidered installations of the collection.”
As further detailed in the announcement, the investments will “transform the visitor experience, and enable the Museum to share more of its collection, engage new audiences with interactive digital technologies, and represent a major reduction in the Museum’s climate impact.”
An architect tasked with helming the sweepings planned renovations at the museum has not been announced nor has a rough timeline for the project although Anne Pasternak, director of the Brooklyn Museum, told the New York Times that a slew of further announcements with additional particulars are on the horizon.
Just down the way at Grand Army Plaza, another landmark Brooklyn institution, the Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch, debuted a whole new look this past May after an expansive, $38 million interior refresh headed by Toshiko Mori.
“The Brooklyn Museum is and has always been the people’s museum. For generations, our audiences have reflected the rich diversity of New York City itself,” said Pasternak in a statement. “This historic investment will reimagine the museum for the next hundred years and further our commitments to connect with and serve our community. We are profoundly grateful to Mayor de Blasio and everyone in the Administration for their belief in our civic and cultural importance.”
AN will share further details when we learn more.