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NY's Met to sublease modern art annex in surprise move

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | Visitors on the opening day of The Met Breuer, an expansion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in 2016

NEW YORK (AFP) - 

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art made a surprise announcement Friday it would reboot stalled renovations of its modern and contemporary wing, and temporarily turn over the building housing the works to the nearby Frick Collection.

In 2014, the Met had announced it would rebuild its southwest wing that runs along Fifth Avenue at an estimated cost of $600 million -- but its deteriorating financial situation forced the museum to rein in its plans.

Despite pulling in record crowds, the storied institution -- one of the world's largest art museums with collections spanning the globe from antiquity onward -- was forced to cut costs by curbing hiring, announcing voluntary buyouts and postponing the renovation project by several years.

Thomas Campbell, who had led the Met since 2009, then stepped down in 2017, with some accusing him of trying to do too much too soon.

During his tenure, the museum had opened a modern and contemporary art annex, the Met Breuer, in the Madison Avenue building formerly home to the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Critics admonished the move, saying the Met was dividing its resources in an already financially strapped time.

Under the new arrangement, the Met will essentially sublease the building to another mainstay of the Upper East Side, the Frick Collection, as that museum renovates its own building, a Gilded Age mansion.

Letting the Frick finish off the last several years of the building's eight-year lease would allow the Met to save some $18 million, according to The New York Times.

A spokeswoman for the Frick told AFP its own construction would take an estimated two years.

The Met's lease for the Breuer building will expire in 2023. It remains unclear what will happen next to the concrete, inverted pyramid-shaped museum opened in 1966.

A spokesman for the Whitney, which still owns the modernist building designed by Bauhaus-trained architect Marcel Breuer, declined to comment on what might next be in store for the space.

© 2018 AFP