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Displaying items by tag: Folk Art Museum

Twelve years ago, the Folk Art Museum erected a monumental flagship building next door to the Museum of Modern Art on West 53rd Street in Manhattan. In 2011, after a spate of financial troubles, the Folk Art Museum decided to sell the building to MoMA and move to a smaller outpost. Now, the MoMA is planning to demolish the building to make way for an expansion that will connect to a new tower on the other side of the former Folk Art Museum.

The building, which was designed by notable New York-based architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien and features a sculptural bronze façade, has become a Midtown landmark in a short amount of time. However, MoMA officials decided that the building didn’t mesh well with the museum’s glass façade; it is also set back further than MoMA’s structure, making expansion logistics difficult.

MoMA’s new 82-story building will be designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and constructed by Hines, a Houston-based company. The new structure will include apartments and about 40,000 square feet of gallery space. The Folk Art Museum’s former space will provide an additional 10,000 square feet of exhibition space. The renovation is expected to begin in 2014 by which time the Folk Art Museum’s former home will be leveled.      

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Two years ago, the Folk Art Museum in New York City was on the brink of closure due to its poor financial standing. Most of the museum’s troubles stemmed from a $32 million construction project that placed a flagship building next door to the Museum of Modern Art on West 53rd Street in Manhattan. After the project drew to a close in 2001, the Folk Art Museum struggled to pay off their debt to the Trust for Cultural Resources and in 2009 the institution defaulted on its payments. Desperate, the Folk Art Museum sold their flagship building and moved into a smaller space and drastically reduced its budget.

Now, after some major sacrifices, it appears that the Folk Art Museum has regained its footing. Attendance is expected to reach 80,000 this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2013; last year the Folk Art Museum welcomed 66,000 patrons. A number of major donors are back on board with the museum including the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund, which recently gifted $25,000 to the institution. The Folk Art Museum will also participate in this summer’s highly anticipated Venice Biennale by sending an artwork from its collection to the show.

The Folk Art Museum has been strengthening its relationships with other institutions through collaborative exhibitions. The museum is currently hosting an exhibition of William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) oil paintings titled Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed (on view through May 26, 2013), which was organized by the Fenimore Art Museum is Cooperstown, NY. The exhibition Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, which features a range of works by the self-taught artist, Bill Traylor (1854-1949), will open on June 11 and run through September 22, 2013.

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The American Folk Art Museum in New York, which almost went out of business last year because of financial struggles, has appointed a new director, the museum announced Wednesday.

The board selected Anne-Imelda Radice, who recently served as director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that supports the work of libraries and museums. She will start next week.

Struggling under a deficit and disappointing attendance, the museum was forced to close its new flagship building in Midtown in 2011 and move to its smaller current location at Lincoln Square in Manhattan.

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The American Folk Art Museum can survive in a storefront on New York’s Upper West Side, its volunteer president said today, buoyed by more than $3.5 million in contributions and pledges since it sold its main building to the Museum of Modern Art.

“We’re committed to operating on a break-even basis for the indefinite future,” said Monty Blanchard, a former Merrill Lynch & Co. investment banker, speaking at a news conference. “Our future is reasonably secure.”

The museum sold its West 53rd Street building to MoMA for $31.2 million last year after missing $3.7 million in debt- service payments. The 50-year-old museum now operates in a space of less than 5,000 square feet that it has used as an outpost since 1989.

“The plus side of selling our building is that we are debt-free,” said Linda Dunne, the museum’s acting director. All contributions go to programming, not to servicing or repaying debt, she said, adding that the staff is 18, down from a peak of 57 a few years ago.

“Considering what was hanging over our heads, this gives us the chance to start new, without the monster facilities costs,” she said.

Stacy Hollander, senior curator, has assembled 100 pieces from the museum’s 5,000-work collection in a dense new exhibition called “Jubilation/Rumination: Life, Real and Imagined.” It includes Henry Darger, Martin Ramirez and other big names of folk art.

The philanthropist Joyce Berger Cowin recently pledged $2 million to the museum, Blanchard said, and trustees and others gave about $1 million.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2011 02:33

Folk Art Museum Considers Closing

The financial picture has grown so bleak at the American Folk Art Museum that its trustees are considering whether to shut it down and donate its collections to another institution, said a person involved in the discussions, who requested anonymity because the talks are confidential.

No final decision has been made, and members of the folk museum’s staff are said to be lobbying to keep it going in some form. But the museum’s leadership has been in talks with the Smithsonian Institution for several months about possibly acquiring the collection in conjunction with the Brooklyn Museum.

A decision to dissolve the museum and transfer its collection would require the approval of both the New York State attorney general’s office and the State Department of Education. The attorney general’s office would consider, among other things, whether the transfer would put New York State residents at a disadvantage.

Even if ownership of the collection were transferred to the Smithsonian, one possibility being discussed is to have the Brooklyn Museum display some of it long term, making it still accessible to New Yorkers. The folk art museum has one of the country’s finest collections of American folk art, including some 5,000 quilts, paintings and functional objects like weathervanes. But it has long been plagued by serious financial problems.

A decade ago the museum borrowed $32 million, in the form of bonds, to finance the construction of an impressive building on West 53rd Street in Manhattan, designed by the architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. In 2009, after suffering substantial investment losses in the financial crisis, the museum defaulted on its debt, and in May the trustees decided to sell the building to the Museum of Modern Art, down the block, in order to pay off the debt.

But the sale of the building for $31.2million, while covering the debt, did not leave the museum with any extra cash. And it left, if anything, an even more difficult conundrum for the museum about how to move forward.

The museum still has a small, 5,000-square-foot space in Lincoln Square, at Columbus Avenue near 66th Street, where it could continue mounting small shows if the trustees felt that it could sustain the costs of keeping a staff and paying to store, conserve and insure the collection. The museum remains open at that location these days, and admission is free. The building on West 53rd Street is closed.

The museum’s president, Laura Parsons, said of the current situation: “The board took the first step of discharging its obligations to the bondholders — the next step is to determine what the best outcome for the museum and the art is.”

Ms. Parsons declined to go into greater detail, saying that the discussions were confidential.

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Saturday, 02 July 2011 03:58

Folk Art Museum’s Final Week Before Close

Lovers of folk art have just a week left to visit the American Folk Art Museum at its home on West 53rd Street before it closes its doors there for good. Struggling under a heavy load of debt, the museum recently sold the building to the Museum of Modern Art. On Thursday it said its last day in the building would be July 8.

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The executive director of the American Folk Art Museum, which is in default on interest payments due for $31.9 million of bonds, is leaving the museum in July.

Maria Ann Conelli said today on the museum’s website that after six years at the museum, she’s returning to academia. She didn’t return a call or e-mail for comment. Susan Flamm, a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

The museum, a few feet west of the Museum of Modern Art on Manhattan’s W. 53rd Street, missed $3.7 million in payments to a debt service fund connected to bonds issued to construct a new building, it said in a January filing. It didn’t expect to make payments into the fund “for the foreseeable future,” the museum said.

Exhibitions of paintings, drawings and quilts -- many of them acclaimed -- failed to attract attendance and revenue projected a decade ago when the bonds were issued. The museum has been searching for a patron to rescue it, possibly in exchange for prominently displaying his or her name.

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The American Folk Art Museum won’t sell its collection to pay interest on $31.9 million it borrowed to construct a new building, after defaulting on payments in July 2009, the institution’s director said.

The museum, down the block from the Museum of Modern Art, will sell art only “to purchase for the collection,” Executive Director Maria Ann Conelli said in an interview, adding that she expects to have a balanced budget for the fiscal year ending June 30. “We’ve been hitting our target every single month.”

The Manhattan institution has missed a total of $3.7 million in payments to a debt service fund for the new premises, a Jan. 5 filing to bondholders said. Total missed payments are up by about $2 million in the past year -- averaging $7,700 each weekday.

Acclaimed exhibits -- such as “Women Only: Folk Art by Female Hands” featuring paintings, drawings and quilts -- failed to attract the attendance and revenue levels projected in 2000. Last month’s filing said the museum doesn’t expect to make payments into the fund “for the foreseeable future.”

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