Restoration for the Wallace Wing

Met Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art began planning to rebuild its Modern and contemporary art wing in May 2014, the first comprehensive re-examination of the museum's layout in over 40 years. This acknowledgement from the Met represents a realization that the Modern and contemporary wing needs some attention. “It seemed a logical moment to really step back and think about the needs of the museum in the next 30 years,” said Thomas P. Campbell, the director of the Met. “It’s the Modern’s wing’s turn to get it right.”

This comes at a crucial time when the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art have both been undergoing major renovations. Modern and contemporary art has never been the Met’s strong suit - being one of the largest museums of fine art – but the museum has just obtained a generous gift within the last year of 79 Cubist paintings, drawings, and sculptures from Leonard A. Lauder. The Wallace Wing was completed in 1987, and has long been seen as problematic because it doesn’t allow for a chronological presentation. “You leave the 19th-century galleries, which finish with early Picasso and Matisse, then cross the hall and are abruptly confronted with contemporary art made 100 years later,” said Gary Tinterow, former chairman of the Met’s department of 19th-century, Modern and contemporary art.

One major motivation for the decision to re-design the wing is the Met’s agreement to lease the Marcel Breuer Building on Madison Avenue from the Whitney. This will provide the museum with a temporary home for its contemporary collection during the construction. The Wallace Wing’s original architect, Kevin Roche, confirmed the wing was always a problem. “ It really never got built properly,” said Mr. Roche, 92 in an interview. “I was never very happy with what happened.”

The Met is not ready to make the same mistake; they have enlisted a new architect for the renovation of the wing. British architect David Chipperfield has been appointed to rebuild and design the new Modern and contemporary art wing - the result of a year long selection process that included over 50 international firms. Chipperfield has an extensive portfolio, which includes the Neues Museum in Berlin and Hepworth Wakefield gallery in northern England. Chipperfield was selected notably for his “vision, experience, and compatibility,” said Mr. Campbell. “David Chipperfield’s global architectural experience and sensibility, along with his commitment to the collaborative aspect of creating architecture, make him a perfect partner on this milestone project.”

The design has not yet been revealed, but is expected to extend the museum’s grounds, include a new side entrance to the park, and enhance the gallery’s configuration – improving navigation for visitors. The new vision aims to incorporate state-of-the-art technologies into the museum complex using the original master plan from 1971 – designed by Kevin Roche. Campbell added, “The goal in our work with David and his team is to take a giant leap forward in the presentation of the Modern and contemporary art at the Met, and to be able to better tell the multiple narrative of the art of our time.” The development of the design will begin immediately, with hopes to have the wing completed by 2020 – the year the Met turns 150.