MoMA Director Glenn Lowry on Expanding the Collection, Audience, and Building

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Glenn D. Lowry, director of The Museum of Modern Art, talks about the museum’s transformation over the past two decades and its place in the cultural landscape of New York and the world.

Lowry said that since its founding, the Museum of Modern Art, has been devoted, committed to the idea of the future. “Everything we’ve done really since then has been about thinking about the collection, thinking about our audience, thinking about the kind of exhibitions that were essential to marking our own history and anticipating what was to come,” he explained.

He spoke about MoMA’s position as one of the most important museum’s in the word, and what it takes to maintain that status. “I think the formula for a great museum, and its true whether it’s the Museum of Modern Art or the Metropolitan or any other one, is really very simple,” Lowry said. “It is utterly dependent upon the quality and commitment of its trustees and the excellence of its staff. The reason that’s so essential is always the same thing, and that’s the art.”

The average age of MoMA’s audience has been going down, not up, as it has at other cultural institutions. “Clearly we want to connect with a new generation, the next generation, and if we can continue to do that, we’ll always be a place that’s about the future.”

Attracting a bigger audience and adding to the collection mean expanding the museum’s gallery space, said Lowry. “The expansion is driven by a very simple need: the ability to show more of our incredible collection under even better conditions.” He added, “Every decade there’s increased pressure to find more space. And it’s not that we can expand exponentially forever. We can’t. But we have the opportunity now to grow significantly—by 40 percent essentially—in terms of what we can show.”

When asked about the new expansion plans that have been widely criticized because they require the Folk Art Museum on 53rd Street to be demolished, Lowry said, “It’s of course controversial. Anything you do in New York is probably controversial.” The revised plans call for preserving the Folk Art Museum’s façade, but it’s not clear how or if it will be used in the new building’s design.


Glenn D. Lowry

Comments [11]

Stephen from Manhattan

Mr. Lowry's tenure has indeed had a profound impact on MoMA — and not in a good way. It's certainly not the institution it was 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. It has totally lost sight of its mission and currently could easily be confused with a shopping mall that happens to display some art. The last straw was MoMA's ill-advised decision to destroy a beautiful piece of modern architecture — the American Folk Art Museum — at the behest of greedy real estate developers.

Apr. 16 2014 02:03 PM
Sari from NYC

Sarah did a great job, but boy did she let Lowry off the hook. Especially today, when the scaffolding is going up on the Museum of Folk Art and the NY Times has a page one story revealing for the first time the perspective of the Folk Art museum's architects, this was the time to question him about his priorities.

He took a special and uniquely warm, human-scale building and made it cold and personality-less in 2002 and now he is tearing down a highly regarded contemporary example of very special, very human scale architecture. Notice a trend here?

Cold, volume-focused... what about the art?

Apr. 16 2014 02:00 PM
Ro from Manhattan

Ms Parker's questions are fine but her "stutter speech" is distracting and annoying. It may be a way of deflecting dominence that women in particular seem to use: Terry Gross also does it. Ladies - woman up! Just speak without peppering your speech with ums, ers, repetition of short syllables - PLEASE!

Apr. 16 2014 01:54 PM
tom from Astoria

Will the new building have a room for Hopper, Sheeler, Bellows? Edward Hopper's paintings are very modern. MoMA has not had a regular room for his work, nor the work of George Bellows, Sheeler, the Aschcan school, Andrew Wyeth. When we think of the 40s it's Pollack DeKooning, not Hopper, according to MOMA. Will

Apr. 16 2014 01:50 PM
KellyAnne Hanrahan from Brooklyn

Sarah JP, you're doing a TERRIFIC job hosting the show. It's a delight to hear your voice! Great choice, WNYC :)

Apr. 16 2014 01:45 PM

Seems like MOMA's purpose became all about the money, not art.

Apr. 16 2014 01:45 PM
Fred from NYC

MOMA keeps increasing the price of admission. I realize the city is very costly, but who has MOMA come to serve?
Find a fancy Bank that got a government hand out in '08 and subsidies the price of admission for the greater public.
I'm not saying entrance should be free, just lower it to something more affordable.

Apr. 16 2014 01:41 PM
jgarbuz from queens

Jessica has a perfect voice and face for radio, just like Brian and Lenny. I hope she becomes the regular sub. She's very interesting as an interviewer, far more so than as some allegedly sexy bombshell in the city.

Apr. 16 2014 01:39 PM

I second Tish. Why has Lowry made MOMA into a primarily real estate development company? Tearing down the Folk Art Museum is all about building luxury condos over that space. MOMA has lost any credibility as a curatorial entity.

Apr. 16 2014 01:27 PM
Tish from Manhattan

Apologies for my misspelling: I meant Pollock, as in Jackson Pollock.

Apr. 16 2014 10:47 AM
Tish from Manhattan

Could you please ask Mr. Lowry how he reconciles MoMA's curatorial mission, which includes modern architecture, with the museum's decision to tear down the Folk Art Museum, which many consider a modern masterpiece. We understand the financial arguments, but MoMA is very wealthy and has options for how it develops and manages its physical plant. Tearing down this museum because it didn't fit building plans is to many of us akin to cutting up a Pollack if it wouldn't fit through a door.

This interview is a rare opportunity to hear Mr. Lowry speak to this matter from a curatorial perspective and it would be extremely relevant to today's topic, at least in how this show page has described it.

Apr. 16 2014 10:42 AM

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