After nearly a half century on Washington Square, the Grey Art Gallery, New York University’s fine arts museum, will reopen in a purpose-designed, larger, and more visible space at 18 Cooper Square in lower Manhattan on Friday, March 2, 2024. With this transformational move, the Grey will be renamed the Grey Art Museum. The Grey’s new facility occupies the entire ground floor of a venerable brick and iron building in the NoHo Historic District, its storefront façade facing out onto a busy pedestrian thoroughfare at the intersection of the East Village and NoHo. The new premises at 18 Cooper Square accommodates three galleries—expanding exhibition space by 40%—and a new study center enabling more direct access to the collection for students, faculty, and researchers. In addition to the study center, the lower-level houses art preparation/fabrication shops, storage, and several offices.
“Our new home at 18 Cooper Square is an ideal platform from which to play an even larger and more integral role in the life of the university and the downtown arts community,” says Lynn Gumpert, Grey Art Gallery Director. “Because many of NYU’s provostial centers and institutes are housed next door, we will be able to collaborate even more extensively with the cultural and intellectual spheres of NYU’s global network and enhance our abilities to serve the needs of students.” The game-changing move is made possible in part by a generous gift from Dr. James Cottrell and Joseph Lovett, longtime art patrons and social activists. The couple has also donated more than 100 works of contemporary art (from a promised 200), drawn from their extensive art collection focusing on downtown artists. One of the new galleries will be named the Cottrell-Lovett Gallery and the research facility, the Cottrell-Lovett Study Center.
A prominent street entrance provides a clear view of the reception area and entrance hall, bookstore, and main exhibition spaces. The elegant simplicity of the design, which is on track to be certified as LEED Gold, belies extensive upgrades to the turn-of-the-20th-century building to achieve dynamic facilities supportive of future programming. NYU worked with the acclaimed New York-based firm Ennead Architects on the creation of the new museum. The project was designed by Ennead Partner Richard Olcott FAIA and managed by Ennead Partner Molly McGowan AIA. The name “Grey Art Museum” will better express the range of the institution, which presents meticulously researched exhibitions on fascinating and often little-known subjects, while maintaining and interpreting the over 6,000 works in the permanent collection. “For almost 50 years, the Grey has been one of New York’s great treasures, with an impact that has far exceeded its size, and wonderful, carefully curated shows that have delighted art lovers from all over. In its fabulous new, more spacious, and more accessible quarters, the Grey will continue contributing to making lower Manhattan a world-class arts destination,” notes NYU President Linda Mills.
The Grey Art Museum will continue to focus on exhibitions and programs that expand our understanding of the New York downtown art scene. Indeed, inaugurating the Grey Art Museum is Americans in Paris: Artists Working in Postwar France, 1946–1962. Surprisingly, the exhibition is the first scholarly overview of the expatriate art scene in Paris after World War II. Among the over 200 Americans who moved to France on the newly inaugurated GI Bill were a number of key downtown denizens. The exhibition and the 300-page volume that accompanies it examine truisms about New York’s postwar ascendancy and offer a timely reconsideration of questions artists grappled with as they forged a new modernity for the postwar era. Curated by Debra Bricker Balken with Lynn Gumpert, Americans in Paris brings together over 130 paintings, sculptures, films, photographs, and works on paper by nearly 70 artists, including Ed Clark, Beauford Delaney, Carmen Herrera, Ellsworth Kelly, Joan Mitchell, Nancy Spero, Jack Youngerman, and the filmmaker Melvin van Peebles. The exhibition illuminates the achievements of a number of artists whose work has not received the recognition it merits, including James Bishop, Ralph Coburn, Harold Cousins, Claire Falkenstein, and Shinkichi Tajiri. A selection of works from the NYU Art Collection will be featured in the Entrance Hall, rounding out the inaugural exhibition programming. This new space will accommodate rotating groupings of artworks throughout the year, allowing focused interpretations and provocative pairings. Altogether, the Grey’s move to Cooper Square will open up its holdings as never before.
The Grey’s exhibition programming has long been a must-see for critics, artists, and the museum-going public. Landmark presentations include those devoted to Frida Kahlo (1983), Peter Hujar (1990), Atsuko Tanaka (2004), Tseng Kwong Chi (2015), and paintings by self-taught Algerian artist Baya Mahieddine (2018) paired with the drawings of neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal. Topics have ranged from the art of the royal court of Benin (1981), moon landing photographs (1981), Rosalind Solomon’s portraits in the time of AIDS (1988), and the avant-garde design of Shiro Kuramata (1998) to the modernisms of Iran, Turkey, and India (2019).
The Grey explores subject matter that expands the parameters of current thinking or taste, nearly always producing comprehensive publications to accompany exhibitions. Over time, a number of these volumes have become definitive scholarly sources.
History and Collections
Abby Weed Grey established the Grey Art Gallery at NYU as a permanent home for her art collection in 1974. She was convinced by extensive travel in Asia and the Middle East that art could serve as a universal language and she was inspired by the aspirational tenor of the time, as typified by the pioneering CBS educational series on art, Sunrise Semester, to believe that art should be accessible to all. The collection she built, representing artists from Iran, Turkey, India, and Japan is more relevant to scholars today than when the museum opened, including as it does rare early modern works from the 1960s and several deep holdings that illuminate the achievement of artists who drew on their cultural heritage such as Siah Armajani and Parviz Tanavoli from Iran, Francis Newton Souza and Ram Kumar in India, and Bedri Rahmi Eyüboglu and Fahrelnissa Zeid from Turkey. The Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, as it was then called, became the custodian of NYU’s art collection, which was founded in 1958 and by the early 1970s had grown quickly, with special strengths in late 19th- and 20th-century art, from Francis Picabia’s Resonateur (c. 1922) to Pablo Picasso’s monumental Bust of Sylvette (1968), to Joseph Cornell’s Chocolat Menier (1952), as well as American paintings by Romare Bearden, Helen Frankenthaler, Arshile Gorky, Ad Reinhardt, and Hale Woodruff, among others. The new Grey was a worthy successor to A. E. Gallatin’s Gallery (later, Museum) of Living Art, which operated at NYU from 1927 to 1942 as the first museum in the U.S. devoted to contemporary art.
One focus of Grey Art Gallery acquisitions is art that has emerged from downtown New York’s creative milieu, as seen in works by Norman Bluhm, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Deborah Kass, and Glenn Ligon, among others. The breadth of its photography holdings is suggested by Danny Lyon’s depictions of the razing of Lower Manhattan for urban renewal, Aaron Siskind’s nonfigurative urban compositions, and Peter Hujar’s haunting portraits of downtown denizens. The collection has again expanded significantly with Dr. Cottrell and Mr. Lovett’s promised gift of approximately 200 works of contemporary art.
Grey Art Museum, New York University
20 Cooper Square
New York, NY 10003
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 11 am–6 pm
OPEN LATE Wednesday: 11 am–8 pm
Saturday: 11 am–5 pm
Closed Sunday, Monday, and major holidays
Suggested donation: $5; free of charge to NYU students, faculty, and staff
Grey Art Museum Media Contact
Sofeia Eddy: email@example.com | +1 212.998.6782