New York City’s Bronx Museum of the Arts is closing out October with the unveiling of a fresh new look and a glimpse at a transformative capital project that aims to further integrate the museum with the neighborhood that it has long called home.
This morning, the Concourse-based quinquagenarian cultural institution, which ranks as the only free contemporary art museum in the city, revealed a brand identity design—logo and museum website included—led by local strategy and design studio Team. Described by the museum as “bold, distinct, and resilient so as to reflect the ethos of the Museum and its vital work at the intersection of art and social justice,” the brand overhaul is the first undertaken by the museum in more than 20 years.
Notably, the new branding reveal was accompanied by further details and schematic design renderings depicting the museum’s $26 million renovation, which is largely focused on a reimagined South Wing entrance lobby located on the corner of Grand Concourse and 165th Streets. The major revamp, overseen by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) on behalf of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and The Bronx Museum, was first announced in July 2021 with a call for architects to helm the project. Last December it was announced that multidisciplinary design practice Marvel had been selected to lead the design.
Nearly a year later, the Bronx Museum has shared the New York– and Puerto Rico–based firm’s schematic design for the South Wing overhaul, which will see an existing, 1980s-era atrium space be transformed into a soaring new space that the museum is calling “a new living room for the Bronx.” A major element of the work, founding largely by the city with additional support from the state, involves relocating the current museum entrance to the aforementioned corner as to better open up the institution to the lively surrounding streetscape and provide “multiple visibility opportunities for art and public programming from the street.”
“The Bronx Museum was founded for the people of the Bronx, and has become a globally recognized institution,” explained Bronx Museum of the Arts executive director Klaudio Rodriguez. “With the renovation of our entrance and new identity, we hope to further our mission to not only champion artists who are not typically represented within museums, but also amplify our ability to educate, engage and provide a critical gathering space for our communities.”
Inside the triple-height, glazed-on-all-sides space that aims to “bring the street into the gallery and bring the gallery back to the street,” Marvel’s renovation will fuse the South Wing with the neighboring North Wing (this much-praised $19 million addition designed by Arquitectonica debuted in 2006) via a spacious new central lobby featuring a seating area, community gathering space, and street-facing displays that will be populated by rotating exhibitions.
The redesign will also create new connections throughout the core exhibition areas and public spaces, including a fully accessible route through the entirety of the museum’s galleries.
The design language of the revamp references both the eclectic architectural history of the museum and the surrounding neighborhood including folded copper bronze panel roofs that, per the museum, “reflect the warm tones of the surrounding brick and tie to the art deco influence of the Concourse district.” In a nod to the museum’s long-camouflaged past, the redesign will also strip away dark metal panels that have obscured the midcentury brickwork of the original museum building, which previously housed a synagogue until the Bronx Museum moved in in 1983 following an expansive conversion project (When it first opened in 1971, the museum was housed in the rotunda of the historic Bronx Country Courthouse and a series of satellite galleries.)
“Marvel’s design for the renovation and expansion of The Bronx Museum channels the Bronx’s can-do, hip-hop creativity and resourcefulness,” said Marvel founding partner Jonathan Marvel in a statement. “More than a museum, The Bronx Museum breaks down barriers, is a source of culture and a gathering space for the community, and visitors from around the globe.”
(On the topic of hip-hop creativity, the permanent new home of the Bronx’s Universal Hip Hop Museum, designed by S9 and flanked by a sprawling waterfront esplanade designed by Marvel with Abel Bainnson Buntz, is now set to open at the mixed-use Bronx Point waterfront development in 2024.)
“The Marvel team is enthusiastically working alongside The Bronx Museum to blur the boundaries of building and sidewalk, and reach a city-wide audience. In designing a new front door for the people of the Bronx, we are opening the Museum’s exhibitions, programs and events for the entire community to enjoy,” Marvel added.
As previously detailed by AN, In May 2016, it was announced that Mónica Ponce de León, architect and dean of the Princeton University School of Architecture, would lead a $15 million South Wing overhaul/atrium reimagining project envisioned as the first phase of a larger $25 million museum facelift. That project was slated for completion in 2020. Although the museum vowed to forge ahead with the planned atrium overhaul following a controversial internal shake-up that came just three months after the capital campaign was announced, those exact plans never came to fruition.
With more than 2,000 works in its permanent collection, the Bronx Museum of the Arts has garnered widespread recognition 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,” per the NYCEDC. Current exhibitions include Abigail DeVille: Bronx Heavens and Swag and Tenderness: The South Bronx Portraits by John Ahearn & Rigoberto Torres. As mentioned, the museum has a free admission policy, which was instituted in 2012 and yielded quadrupled attendance numbers in just a few years.
We’ll follow-up with the latest transformation at the Bronx Museum of the Arts when the project reaches completion in 2025.