Big MoMA

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Proposed Manhattan Tower by Jean Nouvel — Image: Jean Nouvel

Earlier this year, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which just underwent a big expansion three years ago, sold a parcel of property adjacent to the museum to the global real estate development company Hines. The idea was that whatever Hines built there would also include additional gallery space for MoMA. Today we learn that Hines will be putting up a 75-story hotel/apartment tower designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel.

As the Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff points out, the three floors of gallery space that the building will also house will give MoMA a chance to rethink the layout of its permanent collection and maybe also its architecture galleries, which right now definitely have the feel of afterthoughts. The Modern is still trying to make out the best ways of using its new Yoshio Taniguchi building. Having the Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi doodle the walls of the big atrium earlier this year finally brought some life to that space. The installation of a few large works by Martin Puryear that’s there now works even better. I like the teasing way the topmost part of the slim tree trunk that sprouts from Puryear’s Ad Astra pops into your vision like a cartoon tentacle on the museum’s upper floors. Walk past one of Taniguchi’s atrium apertures and suddenly there’s this skinny tree top at eye level. It’s just like Rilke said: “Oh tall tree in the ear!”

MoMA installation view. At right, Ad Astra, Martin Puryear, 2007 — Photo: Richard Barnes

Speaking of Puryear, as soon as a I saw the pattern of irregular diagonals on the exterior of Nouvel’s tower, I was reminded of a Puryear that’s on the top floor of MoMA right now.

Thicket, Martin Puryear, 1990 — Seattle Art Museum — Photo: Richard Barnes

No doubt this is not an important visual correspondence, but I can’t seem to get it out of my head, so I’m passing the problem on to you.