NYC's Museum of Biblical Art Will Close Its Doors, Despite Crowds for Recent Exhibition

  • April 29, 2015 12:00

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Giovanni D'Ambrogio, The Annunciation (detail: Angel), late fourteenth-century. Image Courtesy Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore / Antonio Quattrone.

Visitor attendance has been high for exhibitions at New York's Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA). But the popularity of the current show Sculpture in the Age of Donatello is not keeping the museum afloat. The museum's board announced this week that MOBIA will shut down in June after the 23 sculptural masterpieces from the Florence Cathedral—most never seen outside Italy—are removed at the end of the show.

MOBIA's statement

It is with great sadness that the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) announces that the Museum will close to the public on Sunday, June 14, 2015 and cease operations on June 30, 2015.  MOBIA will not reopen in a new location. The Museum’s current exhibition, Sculpture in the Age of Donatello, will remain on view for its scheduled run through Sunday, June 14, 2015. 

MOBIA had its origins as an art gallery founded in 1997 by the American Bible Society (ABS); the gallery opened in 1998 in the ABS building at 1865 Broadway, New York. In 2004, MOBIA became an independent art museum. MOBIA opened to the public in 2005, remaining on the second floor of ABS’s New York headquarters and continuing to receive significant in-kind and financial support from ABS. ABS sold its New York building in February of this year and will relocate to Philadelphia. With the building sale, MOBIA was required to find a new home. The Museum explored multiple options for a new site and potential partners with whom to collaborate. It was ultimately impossible in such a short timeframe to raise the funds needed for the increased operating budget necessitated by leasing and renovating a new site.

“I believe that MOBIA contributes a unique element to the cultural landscape of New York and the entire country, and it is with tremendous sorrow that we close our doors,” said Co-Chair of the MOBIA Board of Trustees John Fossum. “I want to extend the appreciation of the entire Board to the dedicated, creative, and tireless staff of the Museum, and especially to Director Richard Townsend. I also want to express our gratitude, as well as my personal appreciation, to American Bible Society. It was American Bible Society's vision of creating a museum focused on the rich heritage of the Bible that gave birth to MOBIA. ABS has been MOBIA's most generous supporter from the beginning.”

“Under Richard’s leadership, MOBIA has presented extraordinary exhibitions and programs and has elevated its standing to become a true peer of the great art museums of this city,” said Co-Chair of the MOBIA Board of Trustees Elaine Hirschl Ellis. “With Richard as director, I have no doubt that MOBIA would have continued to flourish had there been more time to raise funds to sustain the institution. It is painfully ironic that we must cease existence at the moment the Museum has achieved such prominence.”

“I am deeply proud of what we have accomplished at MOBIA, and deeply sorry that we will not be able to present the many exciting exhibitions and projects we had planned for the coming years,” said MOBIA Director Richard P. Townsend. “Parting with our incomparable staff is extremely difficult and I want to express my profound gratitude to them and our Board for their commitment to the Museum and their exceptional achievements and service. I also want to thank our partners, advocates, members, and all our many visitors for their support and their enthusiastic embrace of our programs. They have made my tenure as director of the Museum both an honor and a pleasure.”

MOBIA, in association with Art Services International, Alexandria, Virginia, has co-organized the exhibition Power and Piety: Spanish Colonial Art from the Patricia Cisneros Collection, and had intended to launch the exhibition’s national tour in New York City later this year. Due to MOBIA’s pending closure, the exhibition—drawn from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros—will premiere at the Society of Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida, in March of 2016 and then tour nationally through 2018. For more information on Power and Piety, please go to www.asiexhibitions.org .


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