Creating space is an art form

Jill Barshay Feb 28, 2008
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Creating space is an art form

Jill Barshay Feb 28, 2008
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Doug Krizner: I try to avoid accumulating stuff. I guess it’s a habit left over from my years living in New York, where space comes at a huge premium. But sometimes, you just gotta have that storage locker. Especially if you’re in the business of accumulating stuff. Jill Barshay reports on what museums do when they’re bursting at the seams.


Jill Barshay: There’s a museum in Spanish Harlem. El Museo Del Barrio is undergoing a major renovation. Director Julian Zugazagoitia is getting rid of 2000 square feet of backroom space.

Julian Zugazagoitia: Those 2,000 square feet we are giving now to public, to public access. So there’s going to be a multi-purpose room, cafe, and a better way of accommodating our public.

Now that he’s lost that space, he has to find somewhere to store, catalog and repair his art. His collection is growing. He’s added 500 pieces in the last three years.

Like scores of museums around the country, Museo Del Barrio is outsourcing. Zugazagoitia hired a Brooklyn company called Surround Art.

Owner Mick Murray says Surround Art’s services are in such demand that his facilities are now eight times the size they were three years ago.

Mick Murray: There’s a real estate issue here in New York, and even museums within their own buildings are getting . . . their back of the house is getting forced out. They have less space to house the people and house the collections.

It’s not just storage space that companies like Surround Art can offer. They know how to care for fragile, contemporary pieces. Some works are made of materials that can decompose.

Mick Murray says climate control conditions are a big selling point:

Murray: The thing that damages objects the most are rapid change in temperature and humidity. You’re looking for 70 degrees temperature, 50 percent humidity.

At El Museo de Barrio, Zugazagoitia says he doesn’t save money by outsourcing. In fact, it’s increased his operating budget by 3 percent.

Zugazagoitia: Of course, it’s a difficult thing to sell to a funder. Nobody will give you money to say, well, this is the such and such storage room of El Museo Del Barrio.

But Zugazagoitia says the extra expense will be worth it. When the renovations are done, there will be a courtyard for Salsa dancing. He hopes his museum’s new frills will increase his attendance figures — and give him something he can take to the donors.

In New York, I’m Jill Barshay for Marketplace.

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