Design by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects LLP, and comprising a 30,000-square-foot structure, the American Folk Art Museum’s building at 45 West 53rd Street was inaugurated on December 11, 2001.
A debt of near $32 million was taken by the museum to construct the building. However attendance never met expectations and the recent financial crisis led to considerable financial challenges for the museum, with little progress in raising the substantial funds necessary to satisfy the bond on the West 53rd Street building, dispite the effort to balance its budget and bring meaningful fiscal stability to the museum’s annual operations.
To face this unsustainable situation, the board decided to sell the building to the Museum of Modern Art, which has right of first refusal on the property.
No disclosure was made about the value paid, but according to the announcement made by Laura Parsons, President of the Board of Trustees, it will suffice to eliminate the bond debt entirely.
Following this restructure, the American Folk Art Museum will reestablish its branch at 2 Lincoln Square, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, to where it moved in 1989 and pays $1 a year in rent for 5,000 square feet.
The museum intends to explore strategic partnerships with other cultural and educational organizations, start on tour exhibitions of its collection, and an enhance its online presence.
You can see on this map where both museums are located at this time.