The New Museum’s Next-Door Incubator: A Conversation with Lisa Phillips


New York’s New Museum will launch an incubator space for start-ups, artists and entrepreneurs next year in a former warehouse next door to the museum, at 231 Bowery on the Lower East Side. Slated to open in summer, the space will host more than 60 tenants. A competitive application process will begin in early 2014; members will pay monthly fees for a workspace and support services. The space will offer residencies for artists and engineers, and host educational workshops and classes.

The 11,000-square-foot facility will be designed by Brooklyn-based SO-IL architects in collaboration with New York architecture and design firm Gensler. SO-IL was responsible for the tent at this year’s Frieze New York art fair on Randall’s Island, and Florian Idenburg, SO-IL’s co-founder, was the project architect for the New Museum’s own building, by Japanese firm SANAA.

Lisa Phillips, New Museum director, discussed the incubator project with A.i.A. by e-mail this week.

What does it mean for the New Museum to expand its purview by hosting start-ups and facilitating art production?

Thirty-six years ago, the New Museum was a start-up, and these entrepreneurial roots remain at the heart of our practice today. We were founded by one woman [Marcia Tucker] with a handful of dedicated staff in a single office. The incubator is also a natural extension of the New Museum’s 35-plus years of fostering emerging and under-recognized artists.

As a non-collecting institution we have always had the freedom to, and have made it a priority to, support the production of new works of art. We have always engaged at the intersection of social activism, creative production and new technologies. We were the first major museum to have a dedicated space for digital art projects in 2000 (Media Z Lounge), which subsequently led to bringing on the visionary organization Rhizome as an affiliate in 2003.

Do you have a preference regarding the makeup of the incubator members-a ratio of artists to entrepreneurs, for instance?

Right now we envision 60 start-up and creative entrepreneurs with 10 to 15 artists rotating through during the course of the year, as well as other guests. 

Are there any plans for future expansions of the incubator beyond New York?

Our Museum as Hub partnership and Ideas City are global platforms. We developed a very strong global network and Studio X has one as well, so we will see what develops.