By Julie Shapiro
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — Cadaver enthusiasts will have to trek outside Manhattan to get their fix for the next few weeks, since the long-running Bodies exhibit in the South Street Seaport has closed temporarily.
"Bodies…The Exhibition" shuttered Jan. 2 for an extensive renovation and will reopen Feb. 4, according to parent company Premier Exhibitions.
"As with any museum, you want to rotate the collection to make the full breadth of knowledge available to the public," said John Zaller, vice president of creative and design for Premier. "We're creating a more engaging and contemporary exhibit."
The display of whole, preserved cadavers, posed in athletic positions, was only supposed to last for six months when it opened in November 2005, but it proved so popular that the Seaport extended it multiple times. The exhibit has hosted more than 2.5 million visitors, Zaller said.
The renovation will add 130 new specimens, including both whole bodies and dissected parts, along with new sections on illnesses and how to prevent them, Zaller said. The new exhibit will also include vibrant artistic representations of the body on a cellular level, he said.
The renovation appears to indicate that the Bodies exhibit will remain in the Seaport for at least another year, but Zaller said he did not know the length of the lease.
General Growth Properties, the former owner of the Seaport, said in 2008 that the Bodies exhibit would not remain long-term in the former Fulton Market building.
GGP hoped to turn the 30,000-square-foot space at Fulton and Front streets into a community center, as a giveback to local residents in exchange for a massive redevelopment of Pier 17. General Growth even hired a consultant to work with the community to start planning the center.
But then General Growth went bankrupt in 2009 and the development plan, along with the community center proposal, disappeared.
Howard Hughes Corp. did not return a call for comment.
The nine-gallery Bodies exhibit in the Seaport features dozens of organs, along with entire bodies, which are pumped full of rubber to preserve them. It is one of the priciest museums in lower Manhattan, with adult weekend admission running $27.50 and children $21.50.
John Fratta, chairman of Community Board 1’s Seaport/Civic Center Committee, said he would still welcome a community center on the site, but he doesn’t object to Bodies staying in the meantime.
"I don’t personally like it," Fratta said of the exhibit. "But it does bring people to the Seaport, and that helps local businesses."