Published  30/11/2004

MoMA New York Reopens

MoMA New York Reopens

The Japanese architect, Yoshio Taniguchi's $425 million reconstruction of New York's Museum of Modern Art, comprises the largest museum opening of the 21st century and encompasses 630,000 square feet on six floors. Taniguchi has previously designed a number of museums, including the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures at the Tokyo National Museum, the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, The Marugame Genichiro Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art and a small museum in honour of the artist Kaii Higashiyama. Taniguchi uses light as a medium, diffusing planes into each other, or making them compellingly prominent.

At MOMA, Taniguchi has provided 20% more space for the Sculpture Garden. The former interior has been completely torn out, although Philip Johnson's 1960s additions are still recalled in their facades and in an iconic staircase reminiscent of the Bauhaus. Now, there is a visible revolution in the actual disposition of space, which opens up the earlier planar arrangement and enables art literally to flow, like a river, through the gallery. Chief Curator of painting and sculpture, John Elderfield, is quoted as having said that there has now been created, 'a sense of history flowing like a river through all the galleries'. The galleries themselves are separate but interconnected, as is required for these particular narratives of modern art.

Taniguchi won the MOMA commission in December 1997, after an international competition with three other finalists - Bernard Tschumi, Dean of Columbia University’s graduate school of architecture and Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, the two Swiss architects of Tate Modern, London. Taniguchi's basic idea was to place the contemporary at the core, thus reinforcing the MOMA narrative itself. This proved to be the winning move.

Refreshingly, Taniguchi is unwilling to admit to any modern influences other than the classic teahouse design and ceremonial approach - asymmetrical and rigorous with a grid pattern and a highly conscious emphasis on the materiality of the design. It would appear that the MOMA committee exercised great care and discretion in selecting Taniguchi for the new building.

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