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New Museum Launches Campaign to Expand Bowery Space and Programming

 The New Museum will nearly double its footprint with the upcoming expansion.
The New Museum will nearly double its footprint with the upcoming expansion.
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The New Museum

LOWER EAST SIDE — As it prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary and 10th year at 235 Bowery, the New Museum has launched an $80 million capital campaign to nearly double its space and expand its programming — and thanks to donors, it is already more than halfway to its goal at a whopping $43 million.

The museum, known for its contemporary art exhibitions, plans to renovate its neighboring property at 231 Bowery and join the two buildings, the New York Times first reported, bringing its total square-footage to over 100,000 to accommodate its swelling visitation numbers.

During its tenure on the Bowery, the museum’s annual attendance has shot from 60,000 to more than 400,000, according to the Times.

Lisa Phillips, the museum’s director, told the Times the institution had been planning to build out for some time, but was brainstorming how best to go about the expansion. 

“We’ve known for a long time that we wanted an expansion, but we’ve been thinking about what an expansion means for a museum like this,” she said. “We own the building next door, and it just makes sense to use it. But it was also about thinking about ways to create a parallel structure there, to make something that’s different and a counterpoint to this building.”

The campaign will also fund a growth in programming, the museum announced Tuesday. In addition to doubling its exhibition galleries, the museum plans to expand education initiatives in the community — it currently facilitates in-school programs, summer apprenticeships for teens, and more — as well as improving circulation in its galleries and adding more public amenities.

Longtime museum trustee Toby Devan Lewis kicked off the campaign with the largest donation in the museum’s history — though the museum declined to disclose the exact amount to the Times. A number of supporters have since made donations to reach the $43 million mark.

James-Keith Brown, president of the museum’s board, told the Times that the museum had not ruled out demolishing the neighboring structure and erecting something new altogether.

“It’s not not on the table, but it’s not something that we’re pursuing right now,” he said.