The Museum of Pop Culture, the Seattle-based institution founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000 as a celebration of music and popular culture, is planning a second location in New York City.
Chris McGowan, vice president of the MoPOP board of directors, wrote on the museum’s website that a potential site in midtown Manhattan has been acquired at the request of Allen. The 100,000-square-foot site is located in the historic B. Altman Co. building at 188 Madison Ave. near 34th Street. It’s an iconic location — with the Empire State Building nearby.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news and said that property records reveal that City Investors LLC, an affiliate of Allen’s Vulcan Inc., acquired the space in 2016 for $93.5 million.
McGowan said MoPOP has been “working with the New York artistic, civic and government communities, architects and museum designers to see how we might create a museum that serves and reflects this cultural capital.”
The space was purchased from the New York Public Library, which had already planned to consolidate the branch that is home to its Science, Industry and Business Library. According to McGowan’s post, it will be leased back to the Library until MoPOP NYC begins construction.
“Our motivation for MoPOP in New York City will be the same as MoPOP in Seattle: inspiring multigenerational audiences through the popular culture of our time,” McGowan wrote. “New York City is the center of American culture and MoPOP’s possible expansion presents a unique opportunity for future generations of New York City creators from all five boroughs to learn from the pioneers that preceded them.”
MoPOP, which started as the Experience Music Project (EMP) 18 years ago, is a colorful and curvy presence in Allen’s hometown, in a building at the base of the Space Needle designed by architect Frank Gehry.
The 140,000-square-foot building has undergone five name changes over the years, as focus shifted from just rock ‘n’ roll to a broader platform of film, science fiction, comics and more.
McGowan’s post, and the video below, stressed that MoPOP is interested in continuing its educational outreach in New York. The non-profit already runs a number of programs in Seattle aimed at connecting students and educators with the arts.
McGowan told the Journal that MoPOP NYC is expected to open in four years and he put the cost in the nine-figure range.