Art attack! MoMA takes money battle deep into Brooklyn territory

Invasion: The Manhattan-based Museum of Modern Art has taken over the subway station at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues — in the heart of BROOKLYN — for a soon-to-be-unveiled exhibit.
The Brooklyn Paper / Allyse Pulliam

The Museum of Modern Art — with more masterpieces than an art history textbook — took a shot across the Bauhaus of the Brooklyn Museum this week, plastering a Downtown subway station with ads that will turn it into a month-long annex of the Manhattan institution.

MoMA, the famed Midtown museum built on Rockefeller petro-dollars, will hang prints from its allegedly incomparable collection, such as Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Warhol’s Campbell’s soup series, throughout the Atlantic Avenue–Pacific Street subway station starting on Feb. 10.

The inartful display is a full-frontal assault on the Brooklyn Museum — home to an esteemed Egyptian collection, underappreciated masterworks from the Hudson River school and free events on the first Saturday of every month — in the borough with the most sophisticated residents.

Yet museum officials parried the suggestion this was a declaration of war by its younger, wealthier Manhattan cousin.

“I don’t see that’s it any different than putting a full-page ad in the New York Times,” said Brooklyn Museum spokeswoman Sally Williams. “There’s room for us both.”

That’s unclear. The Beaux Arts building on Eastern Parkway is swimming in the same shallow pool of visitors and donors in the middle of an economic freeze. Some of the Brooklyn Museum’s largest corporate donors — including Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley — have been casualties of the Wall Street meltdown.

The ad campaign is part of the museum’s desperate attempt to attract local visitors to pay its hefty $20 Gaphattan admission price as international tourism cools.

And a subway station full of tantalizing posters saying “MoMA Atlantic/Pacific Open 24/7” certainly made a big “Impressionist” with straphangers, whose heads were swiveling like an Alexander Calder mobile on a windy day.

“The Brooklyn Museum never gets any love — and it’s just as great, if not better, than any museum in Manhattan,” said Angela Blanchard of Sunset Park. “The Brooklyn Museum [should] step up its game. Maybe this’ll motivate them to go put up their own art in the Times Square subway station or something.”

Until then, this battle is being fought on Brooklyn turf. The MoMA ad campaign promotes its upcoming “installation” and directs art lovers to the MoMA Web site www.moma.org/atlanticpacific). The promotion, running through March 15, will include interactive features such as inviting unhurried commuters to dial a number on their cellphones to get audio information about the reproduced masterworks.

“The underground communications campaign is intended to highlight awareness of MoMA’s collection and the affordable benefits of membership to local New York audiences,” the museum said in a statement.

And by “local,” the museum means “Brooklynites.”

“They can try, but it doesnt matter how much the MOMA plasters the subway station walls,” said Roberto Hernandez of Crown Heights. “No self-respecting Brooklynite would choose their museum over ours. It’s about pride — come on, we do everything better here.”

— with Emily Lavin

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