That’s all, folks

Designed by architects with UChicago ties, a museum closes its doors.

By Elizabeth Station

On my way to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on West 53rd Street during a recent trip to New York City, I thought I’d visit the neighboring American Folk Art Museum. Designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects—the husband-and-wife team behind the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts—the 40-foot-wide building occupies a vertical sliver of Manhattan that’s easy to miss if you walk by too quickly.

Tsien and Williams's award-winning design garnered glowing reviews when the museum opened in 2001. Eager to step in and see the space, I was surprised instead to find the front doors padlocked and the lobby dark. I later learned that, struggling with low attendance and a $32 million debt, the folk art museum had sold the building to MoMA and moved to smaller quarters uptown. But the funds generated by the sale haven't restored the museum's financial health, and it may shut down permanently and donate its collection to the Smithsonian.

August 19, 2011