When the long-awaited renovation and expansion of SculptureCenter is completed this October, the Kunsthalle-style nonprofit in Long Island City, Queens, will have a larger—and more welcoming—space for exhibiting contemporary sculpture.
Speaking at a recent hardhat press tour of the site, SculptureCenter director and chief curator Mary Ceruti explained that the institution's evolution from a small amateur club founded in 1928 to an international art center necessitated the $4.5-million expansion. "We've grown a lot in the past four or five years and we are now bursting at the seams," she said.
Though the revamped museum is adding only 700 square feet of interior exhibition space (for a total of 6,700), much more overall room will be available for showing artwork. A new 2,000-square-foot entry hall housing a bookshop, coatroom and other visitor services will open onto a 1,500-square-foot courtyard for outdoor exhibitions.
The renovation is being overseen by New York architect Andrew Berman, who previously designed projects for the Center for Architecture, The New York Public Library and MoMA PS1, among others. Speaking to reporters, Berman described how his plan unifies the existing building's industrial steel and brick facade while creating a stronger street presence, utilizing simple materials like plywood and weathering steel. The architect said that he hopes his plan will create a smooth transition from loud urban life to a peaceful experience within the museum.
Over its nearly 90-year history, SculptureCenter has existed in multiple venues. Founded as "The Clay Club" by sculptor Dorothea Denslow, the institution initially set up shop in a converted carriage house on 8th Street in Manhattan. The joint gallery and studios provided students and artists with the opportunity to produce and exhibit their work. By 1950, the Clay Club had changed its name to Sculpture Center and relocated to another carriage house on 69th Street. In 2001 SculptureCenter moved into its current home, a former trolley repair shop. Artist and designer Maya Lin devised the initial renovation with the expectation that a further expansion would follow.
Ceruti said that the redesign maintains the unconventionality of the organization's exhibitions. "Andrew was very cognizant as we went through the design process that we put art wherever we can," she said. "Our ideas about exhibitions are not limited to the basic gallery format. All the spaces in the building are potential sites for an artist to use."
In addition to exhibiting a wide range of contemporary work, SculptureCenter's artist-in-residence program offers an opportunity for artists to take advantage of the former industrial building's high ceilings and open spaces to create and exhibit large-scale projects. Past participants include Nairy Baghramian, Mike Kelley, Martin Boyce and Ugo Rondinone. The annual In Practice program hosts an open call for proposals. In previous years it has resulted in exhibitions of younger artists such as Virginia Overton and Josh Smith.
During the renovation, programming has been kept on a reduced scope. Solo exhibitions by Katrin Sigurdardottir, Liz Glynn and Jory Rabinovitz are currently on view (through July 28). The newly expanded building will reopen with "Puddle, pothole, portal," a group show organized by SculptureCenter curator Ruba Katrib and artist Camille Henrot. A full day of festivities and community events are planned for the opening on Oct. 5.