Coinciding with its 50th anniversary, the Bronx Museum of the Arts has announced that Manhattan- and San Juan, Puerto Rico-based architecture and design practice Marvel will lead a $21 million facelift of its South Wing entrance and lobby located on the corner of Grand Concourse and 165th Streets in the Concourse section of the South Bronx.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) released a request for proposals for the transformative South Wing overhaul in July of this year, seeking ideas for a “spacious lobby that includes seating, gathering space and large street-facing walls for artwork.” As previously detailed by AN, the art-showcasing new space will transform an atrium-anchored addition that was completed in 1987. Markedly short on exhibition space, the 80s-era South Wing addition at the Bronx Museum was later described by New York Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff as being “awkward” and possessing the “feel of a suburban mall” in a 2006 assessment of the museum’s heralded $19 million North Wing expansion helmed by Miami’s Arquitectonica.
As for the forthcoming overhaul of the Bronx Museum’s South Wing lobby and entrance led by Marvel, the revamped space is envisioned as an extension of the sidewalk, connecting with the community, enticing passersby to visit the museum, and “offering multiple opportunities for art and public programming to be visible from the street.” As noted in a press release, the renovation “will elegantly integrate the South Wing into the existing extension by creating a cohesive architectural whole.”
Supported by city funds with additional support coming from the state, the renovation will be overseen by the NYCEDC on behalf of the New York City of Cultural Affairs. Work is expected to conclude in 2025.
“The role of museums and civic infrastructure in our communities is more critical than ever,” said eponymous Marvel principal Jonathan Marvel in a statement. “In addition to serving as places that reflect our culture and history, these institutions have become hubs of empowerment where citizens can learn, gather and advocate for social justice. With this addition, the Museum will continue to be one of the most vibrant and welcoming spaces for all New Yorkers and visitors, now and in future. We are extremely gratified to be a part of this meaningful project, which spans the storied Grand Concourse and celebrates New York City’s rich legacy of cultural inclusion and diversity.”
“The expansion will provide an enhanced gathering space for our communities and amplify our ability to educate, engage and accommodate our visitors,” added Bronx Museum Executive Director Klaudio Rodriguez. “Marvel has a history of working with some of the city’s most important cultural institutions, including the 2006 renovation of the Studio Museum in Harlem, and brings with them over 30 years of experience providing architectural planning, community, economic and sustainable development of public spaces. We trust that their vision will bring the Museum into the future.”
Founded in 1971 by community leaders and activists and initially housed within the public rotunda of the nearby Bronx County Courthouse, the Bronx Museum has been at its current South Bronx home, a former mid-century Grand Concourse synagogue, since 1982. As mentioned, the museum, which is described as having “carved an identity as a museum dedicated to social justice” over the past five decades, has undergone two major expansions: 1987’s South Wing, designed by Castro-Blanco, Piscioneri & Feder, and Arquitectonica’s award-wining North Wing debuting in 2006. In 2012, the Bronx museum instituted a free admissions policy as a means of removing “economic barriers to entry and participation in programs” and remains one of the only major museums in New York City to extend such a policy to its guests. In the years since enacting the free admission policy, the museum has seen its annual attendance numbers soar.
With over 2,000 works on its permanent collection, the Bronx Museum has garnered widespread acclaim for its focus on showcasing contemporary and 20th-century art, particularly works produced by Bronx-based and -born artists, artists of African, Asian, and Latin American ancestry, and other creators “not typically represented within traditional museum collections.” Current exhibitions include Bronx Calling: The Fifth AIM Biennial, which opened November 10 and remains on view March 20, 2022. Opening next spring are James Shabazz: Eyes on the Street (April 6) and Perspectives: Past/Forward (April 27).