The reboot and reopening of MoMA in New York City represented one of the biggest stories in the art and design world last year. The institution closed for the summer season for the most radical rehang in its history, adding 47,000 square feet of gallery space. For months, the most priceless artefacts in art history have been ferried up and down stairs and rearranged according to a new masterplan. Picasso now hangs across the wall from 1960s black American artist Ms. Ringgold, while cardboard copies of iconic Brancusi sculptures were positioned and repositioned numerous times as a litmus test for visual juxtaposition before the originals were put in place. There is a new terrace restaurant overlooking 53rd Street, with a beautiful, prosaic, graphic flooring: pale oak, with a centre that has been ebonised matt black, and the gallery walls now use subtle colour to enhance the artwork: pale grey, cobalt blue and deep purple. The escalator core is now a dense black – an elegant and simple strategy to bring signage to the fore, while surrounding public spaces are flooded with natural daylight. The new central staircase is a simple, functional visual marvel.
The $450mn MoMA expansion project, which incorporates the lower floors of Jean Nouvel’s first Manhattan skyscraper as well as new construction on the old site of the American Folk Art Museum, was executed by architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Detail is everything, in what is perhaps the modern art world’s most important international institution. The choice of public furniture was something to be laboured over – Charlotte Perriand sofas and Jean Prouvé seating and tables punctuate the lobbies and public areas while the refreshed and extended galleries are unified by the Tuxedo Bench, designed by BassamFellows for Geiger/Herman Miller.
The journey of the BassamFellows Tuxedo Bench to the MoMA underscores the purity and strength of its design. It is simple, linear and functional. To see it engulfed in front of a dramatic monochrome Pollock or a colourfield Rothko is pleasing indeed. It invites you to stay and meditate on the canvas, complements the experience, and acts as a bold underline for a collection of Warhol soup cans. The black bench with its graphic cushioning is a visual accent for the work in each gallery – the curators at MoMA have chosen the positioning of the Tuxedo Bench in every space according to the individual works of art it sits near, rather than according to the architecture. The bench offers a dialogue with the work.
The Tuxedo Bench creates an essential visual unity within the new MoMA, and is set to become synonymous with one of the greatest experiences in contemporary arts and culture. C
MoMA, 1 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, United States