New York’s Rubin Museum Makes Big Changes

New York's Rubin Museum Will Close Its Current Facility and Switch to a Decentralized Approach, Reducing Staff by 40%.

Feb 2, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
New York's Rubin Museum
The institution. Via Diana Robinson.


New York’s Rubin Museum will carry out huge changes this fall. Overall, the institution will close its current facility in Manhattan, and switch to a decentralized approach. With this move, the Himalayan art establishment reimagines its business. The transfer will also result in a 40% reduction in the museum’s 60-person workforce.


New York’s Rubin Museum Focuses on Family-Friendly Programming

New York's Rubin Museum
Installation view of “Death Is Not the End”, March 17, 2023 – January 14, 2024. Photo: David de Armas. Courtesy of the institution.


Up until today, the museum has been identified with its 17th Street, 70,000-square-foot structure. In 1998, husband-and-wife collectors Donald and Shelley Rubin acquired the structure. Their goal was to display their extensive collection of artwork from South Asia. The space is typically full of temporary and permanent displays, but more participatory, family-friendly programming became the museum’s priority in recent years.


There is a popular Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room. Also, its experiential Mandala Lab installation. The museum will also adopt a new, nomadic character. It will focus on travelling exhibitions, grant programme enhancements, and institutional relationships. “While it has been a privilege to welcome visitors to the Rubin in New York over the last 20 years, our anniversary inspired reflection on how we can achieve the greatest possible impact well into the future”, Shelley Rubin said.


New York's Rubin Museum
The Shrine Room at the institution. Photo: Filip Wolak.


Shelley Rubin also added: “The result is the firm belief that a more expansive model will allow us to best serve our mission—not changing ‘why’ we share Himalayan art with the world, but ‘how’ we do it”. Noah Dorsky, president of the Rubin’s board, also had a few words. “Realigning our resources will empower us to reach much broader and diverse audiences, prioritize accessibility, galvanize creativity, advance scholarship, and champion new modes of engagement in a fast-changing world”, he added.

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Money From Building Sale Goes Into Museum’s Supporting Fund

Asian Art
At the museum. Via David Carneiro.


The institution will permanently close on October 6. This is nearly precisely two decades after its initial public opening in 2004. The land is going to be put up for sale. The money raised will go towards the museum’s supporting fund, which functions similarly to an endowment. Also, the estimated value of the endowment will be more than $150 million at the end of last year.


Rubin director Jorrit Britschgi described what was the reason of starting the transition now. Overall, the goal was to provide affected workers with ample time to plan their next course of action. Employees who do building-related tasks, such as those in operations, admissions, and the museum store and cafe, will have their employment dissolved in October. According to a museum representative, these departing staff members would get “comprehensive exit packages”.


asian art
Via Tomasz Duszyk.


The Rubin faces many of the same difficulties that most museums do today. While not new, these issues recently became more pressing. They were aggravated in the last few years by the pandemic and recessions. The world-class, broadly appealing collections of larger institutions like the Museum of Modern Art provide some support against these difficulties, while the Rubin specialises in an older, more specialist form of art. It was just not viable to keep depending on conventional sources of income, like ticket sales and space rentals.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.