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Nov 20 2018

Met Museum Expands Focus On Non-Western Art With New Southwest And Rockefeller Wings

by Dennis Mao

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced that it will be expanding its collections of non-Western art as part of its plans to renovate the Southwest Wing. It will also revamp the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing, which will be split into three sections dedicated to pre-Modern works of art from Africa, Americas, and Oceania, respectively. Pictured: Entrance to Oceania from Modern and Contemporary, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image by wHY. Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) has announced that it will focus on developing its collections of non-Western art as part of broader plans to overhaul its Fifth Avenue flagship, including the construction of the new Southwest Wing for modern and contemporary art, for which David Chipperfield was appointed architect in 2015. 

Met director Max Hollein told the New York Times that the museum hopes to differentiate itself from other major modern and contemporary art institutions in New York, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, by emphasizing “quality and particular narratives” that “[add] to the understanding of modern and contemporary art” beyond the Western canon—for example, the museum has been acquiring works from India, Egypt, Mexico and Brazil.

The Met has long been short of space to exhibit its modern and contemporary art collections. The Met Breuer—the modern and contemporary arm of the Met—opened its doors in 2016, but its parent institution announced this September that it would hand the Breuer building over to the Frick Collection in 2020. This news brings renewed urgency to the Met’s plans to construct the Southwest Wing, estimated to cost USD 600 million, which was put on hold in 2017 due to the museum’s financial deficit.

Additionally, the Met will move forward with a USD 70 million renovation of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing for the first time since its opening in 1982, according to a press release dated November 19, 2018. Designed by Thai architect Kulapat Yantrasast of the firm wHY, which previously renovated the galleries of the Harvard Art Museums, the new Rockefeller Wing will be restructured into three sections, each respectively dedicated to pre-modern works of art from Africa, the Americas and Oceania.

“The renovation of this suite of galleries will at once make a unique and timely civic contribution to our community and immeasurably enrich and deepen appreciation of a vast swath of the world’s artistic dynamism,” stated Daniel H. Weiss, president and CEO of the Met.

Work on the Rockefeller Wing is slated to begin in 2020 and finish in 2023.

Dennis Mao is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.

To read more of ArtAsiaPacific’s articles, visit our Digital Library.

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