The Museum of Arts and Design has appointed Glenn Adamson as its new director. He comes to the museum from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where he served as director of research.
Readers of one particular arts publication might be surprised at the appointment. In 2011, Adamson wrote a feature for Art in America in which he blasted the museum—and in particular, its then-new building, designed by Brad Cloepfil, AIA. (Disclosure: I am a freelance contributor for Art in America.)
"In 2008, the museum moved from its old home on 53rd Street to Edward Durrell Stone’s historic if unloved 'lollipop building' at 2 Columbus Circle. The new design by architect Brad Cloepfil, which dismantled nearly all but the structural outline, includes four floors of exhibition space, each one a tight shoebox with an L-shaped return," Adamson wrote. "These galleries are unforgiving in their proportions—too narrow for comfort—but that has not stopped the curators from packing them to the rafters," he continued.
Adamson was not alone in criticizing the museum. In 2009, Architectural Lighting editor Elizabeth Donoff wrote a piece about the new Museum of Arts and Design that cut to the chase: "One of the most anticipated projects of 2008, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York earned the distinction, upon its opening in late September, of being one of the most negatively reviewed projects of the year."
Donoff notes that the deck was stacked against Cloepfil, who opened an office in New York specifically for the commission. He could neither change the height of the building nor its footprint, per zoning regulations. The client put specific restrictions in place, she writes, and the final project cost was $90 million.
Not everyone hated Allied Works' Museum of Arts and Design from the start. It won a Merit Award from AIA New York in 2009. One writer even thought that the controversy was appropriate to the commission. "Love it or hate it, the new Cloepfil renovation is an appropriate evolution for a building that has always been a lightning rod for architectural criticism and public opinion," wrote Veronica Kavass for Life Without Buildings.
Adamson's complaints about the Museum of Arts and Design weren't limited exclusively to Cloepfil's design. "Having abandoned its former raison d’être," he wrote, "the museum has little more than indiscrimination to call its own." (Adamson did not immediately return a request for comment.)
Holly Hotchner, who stepped down after 16 years as director of the museum, noted in her 2011 response to Adamson's review that he and the museum had always had close ties. She never saw his negative piece coming.
Perhaps his opinions have softened on the museum—or maybe he plans to change it.