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Art attack! MoMA takes money battle deep into Brooklyn territory

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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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Reader Feedback

Michael from Bay Ridge says:
This article is total nonsense.

The two museums have different collections and focuses, and I don't see anything that suggests the purpose or message of that adds is to choose one museum over the other.

The comment from Roberto Hernandez of Crown Heights confuses me even more. Self respecting people of Brooklyn are too proud to visit museums in Manhattan? Not me.
And honestly, we do lots of things much worse than Manhattan (subway transportation springs to mind...).

I love the Brooklyn Museum, and am really fond of thr Burough and what we do, but I am not fond of invented rivalries and pointless boasting.
Feb. 5, 2009, 11:31 am
Hal from Crown Heights says:
This article is inane.

They're museums, not baseball teams -- you don't have to pick your "favorite." Grow up. The MOMA campaign has nothing to do with the Brooklyn Museum.

If you want to find something to complain about, complain about how both museums depend upon international capital for their functioning -- Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley.

Now that's the real "money battle."
Feb. 5, 2009, 12:25 pm
Edward Gregory from Staten Island says:
As a fan of both MoMA & BMA, I think that the Brooklyn Museum subway station is an excellent location for a MoMA ad campaign. MoMA knows that the station is frequented by New Yorkers and tourists who love fine art. It is exactly where they should be promoting their collections. It also enhances the experience for visitors to BMA to be able to enjoy the great works of modern art in the station as part of their visit to the Prospect Park cultural district. Kudos to MoMA. Everyone wins.
Feb. 5, 2009, 2:09 pm
freddy from slope says:
you wont have to worry about it for long. the Brooklyn Museum has already sold off one collection to the Metroplitan.

the over/under is 6 years till the Brooklyn Museum merges with a manhattan institution and the Brooklyn Location becomes a counterpoint like the BAM is to Lincoln Center.
Feb. 6, 2009, 1:57 pm
john from ditmas park very west says:
Welcome MOMA,even if in cyberspace. Galleries and lofts, and inacessible aeries are fine for exhibiting modern art, but our beloved borough, especially downtown, needs more museum heft. Why not turn Borough Hall into a museum of American history or folk art? Why not create museums of literature, or comics or technology downtown?
Feb. 6, 2009, 4:21 pm
jean from flatbush says:
The pictures and different form of art are an inspiration to me.Experiencing this makes me,a designer get deep into my potetial creativity.
Feb. 19, 2009, 1:03 am
mrkmcc from gowanus says:
oh please, roberto hernandez. give me a break with the neighborhood pride crap. just because i live in brooklyn (and prefer it immensely over manhattan) i shouldn't go uptown to see one of the most important modern art collections in the world? that's drivel.
Feb. 25, 2009, 2:53 pm

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