New York | New MET Breuer opens to the public
Photos courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Met Breuer facade on Madison Avenue, photo by Ed Lederman, photo courtesy of MET
New MET Breuer museum in New York opens to the public on March 18, 2016
On March 18, 2016, the Metropolitan Museum of Art officially inaugurates its new venue dedicated to modern and contemporary art on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Yet, the name itself, MET Breuer, suggests that this “new” museum actually has a long history behind it.
Indeed, completed in 1966 after a design by the famous Hungarian-born architect Marcel Breuer (1902-1981), the MET Breuer building was the celebrated former home of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Its stone-clad iconic shape, resembling an inverted pyramid, has been the hallmark of the Whitney for decades, before the museum, in May 2015, relocated to lower Manhattan in its new venue designed by Renzo Piano in the Meatpacking district.
Therefore, the 82,000-square-foot Breuer building on Madison Avenue should find a new use, apt to its great architecture and exceptional location. A long-term agreement between the Whitney and the Metropolitan Museum of Art solved the problem: the museum, renamed MET Breuer, would become the venue of the MET specifically dedicated to modern and contemporary art.
The Met Breuer. Photo Allison Meier / Flickr
Adaptation works were required to make the building suitable to accommodate the exhibitions, live performances, and special events programmed by the MET. Working on a so seminal building would be a risky job for any architect; nevertheless, we can say that the careful renovation design by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects – extremely respectful of the “brutalist” architecture devised by Breuer in the ’60s – achieved quite a remarkable result
The restoration project
The renovation/restoration project was focused on preserving the original idea of Breuer by designing absolutely coherent new ticketing desk and kiosks, keeping the newly-designed elements as uncluttered as possible, adopting the same materials used by Breuer (limestone, bluestone, bare concrete, bronze, and oak wood) and removing all the incoherent elements added after 1966.
The project also involved the revision of the lobby circulation and services, the restoration of the interior spaces and of the museum sunken garden, an extensive surface cleansing, and the update of the lighting system with LED lamps, which included the retrofitting of the iconic circular light fixtures designed by Breuer for the museum lobby.
Overall, such a conservative approach has been largely successful in preserving the peculiar character of the building, its aesthetic quality, and historical relevance.
Three views of the Met Breuer newly restored lobby, photo courtesy of MET
Now, the MET Breuer is almost ready to open, with an inaugural program of events starting on March 18, 2016.
The program includes special events, interactive performances, talks, and two major exhibitions – Unfinished: Thoughts left visible, and a large retrospective of the work of the Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi.
From March 18 to September 4, Unfinished: Thoughts left visible investigates through 197 works the theme of when an artwork can be defined as a “finished” one. Works on view, both pieces which for various reasons the artist was not able to complete and works that their creator left intentionally unfinished, include paintings, drawings, and sculptures by Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Rembrandt, Turner, Cézanne, Rodin, Van Gogh, Picasso, David, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Alice Neel, and Robert Rauschenberg, just to name a few.
Exhibition “Unfinished: Thoughts left visible”, installation views, photo courtesy of MET
The exhibition Nasreen Mohamedi – open from March 18 to June 5, 2016 – presents 130 the Whitney works – including drawings, paintings and photographs – by the Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937–1990), the well-known for her minimalistic yet fascinating artistic approach where graphical, often monochrome, signs create rigorous and complex abstract patterns often inspired by poetry, music and architecture.
Exhibition “Nasreen Mohamedi”, installation views, photo courtesy of MET
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