Museum of Modern Art Celebrates Expansion |

Museum of Modern Art Celebrates Expansion

Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK – Paul Rouille’s last visit to the Museum of Modern Art had come during a student tour that concluded in Washington, where he caught a glimpse of President Kennedy.

On Saturday, Rouille, a Parisian art importer now in his 60s, continued his lifelong romance with museums by joining a crowd of thousands standing in line in Midtown Manhattan for MOMA’s reopening after a three-year, $425-million renovation.

“It’s my last day in New York,” he said. “I extended my stay to attend the opening.”

Rouille was drawn by a collection that includes icons such as Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” and by what he called “the latest technique of museology” – the dramatic new building by Yoshio Taniguchi that has increased the museum’s exhibition space from 85,000 to 125,000 square feet.

The reopening has been one of the most publicized and eagerly awaited events in New York’s cultural life. MOMA is regarded as having perhaps the world’s greatest permanent collection of modern and contemporary art. It includes, among scores of familiar images, Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles D’Avignon,” Matisse’s “Dance” and Jackson Pollock’s “One: Number 31, 1950.”

Taniguchi, tasked in part with giving the works more room to breathe, has been praised for his modesty, for resisting the impulse to make his building compete with its contents.

Tad Davis of Atlantic Highlands, N.J., captured the first place in line by showing up at the museum’s entrance before dawn Saturday. In the gloom and light rain, he walked up and down West 53rd Street looking for the line before realizing that he was the line.


“I’m a graphic designer and my wife is an artist,” Davis said. “Many of these pieces define the way we look at things.”

A few people joked that they were determined to come on opening day, when admission was free, to dodge the Modern’s unpopular new admission price of $20.

As museum staffers in red baseball caps barked into walkie-talkies and hauled metal crowd-control barriers into place, the queue encircled the city block containing the museum, doubled back on itself and jumped across the street into a small plaza. When the doors opened at 10 a.m., the waiting time for those at the end was an estimated 90 minutes.

The crowd was cheerful despite intermittent rain.

Museum director Glenn D. Lowry, almost incognito in corduroys and a light windbreaker, paced in front of the entrance a moment before the doors opened.

“We’ve been preparing for this moment for so long that we still haven’t come up for air,” Lowry said. “I think people are thrilled to have their museum back. Many of them have spent important moments of their life here. It’s a very different building, but it’s still the same museum.”

“OK, let’s go,” another official said, and beckoned the crowd forward.

Davis and his wife, Susan Vosburgh, strode into the entrance lobby to cheers and applause from the assembled museum staff. As the first members of the public through the door, they were awarded lifetime MOMA memberships.

An hour later, in a fifth-floor gallery containing Paul Cezanne’s “The Bather,” Rouille, the Parisian art importer, pronounced the experience worth the wait.

“It’s surprising how much space there is,” he said, noting that a vast room on the top floor was given over to a single painting, James Rosenquist’s monumental “F-111.” Added Rouille: “That kind of space is really a luxury today.”