Captain of Industry

A bootstrapping cousin of the uptown behemoths, the New Museum of Con­temporary Art has built a new home in downtown Manhattan that pays tribute to the traditional industrial environs of the scrappy artist. “It’s to be open, fearless, and alive,” says Lisa Roumell, deputy director and COO of the museum, which opens next month between two restaurant wholesalers on the Bowery. For the $50 million project—about one-seventeenth the cost of the new MoMA—Tokyo-based architects SANAA fittingly drew on the building’s grotty surroundings, where old sneakers still dangle from stoplights, as inspiration. Blocky volumes are stacked seven stories high like tossed refrigerators, and the aluminum-mesh facade echoes the neighborhood’s trash bins. The 58,000-square-foot museum, which Roumell describes as “anti-institutional,” gives the impression of an oddly beautiful growth from the street. “We want to present the greatest art of our time,” she says. “And the public bathrooms will be unprecedented.”

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