Pomp(idou) & Circumstance in New Jersey: Economics & Politics Sink the Paris Museum’s Jersey City Bateau


As someone who lives about 10 miles north of the site that had been chosen for the Jersey City Pompidou (now apparently scuttled), I wrote three years ago that the plan for an offshoot of Paris’ premier museum for modern and contemporary art, while exciting to many New Jersey-ans (like me), seemed “unbelievable” (for which I used the French word in my headline, below):

PompPost
Screenshot from my Jersey Pompidou post

The headline that had caused me to “rub my eyes in disbelief” was: “Pompidou x Jersey City.”

Really?

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Rendering of a renovated, repurposed 1912 building at 25 Sip Ave., Jersey City, that was intended to reopen as an art museum in early 2024 (later pushed back to 2026, now off the drawing board)
Courtesy of OMA
(architectural firm founded in 1975 by Rem Koolhaas)

The improbability of all this had caused me to quip (in the above-linked 2021 post) that “Pompidou x Jersey City”—the name of the planned new offspring of the then 44-year-old Paris mothership (that had been designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers)—”sounds more like an oxymoron than a marriage made in heaven.” As I had previously noted, Jersey City had been unable to sustain its own art museum, which closed due to insufficient support. The dispersal of its collection was averted by late Tom Sokolowski, who arranged for it to be transferred to Rutgers University’s Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, NJ.

Here’s what the Pompidou itself had posted on Twitter in June 2021 about its Jersey City plans:

Now both Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and NJ Governor Phil Murphy (whose job Fulop is seeking, now that Murphy is nearing the end of his two-term limit) appear to have had second thoughts. In a letter informing the Pompidou of New Jersey’s plans to “pause this project indefinitely” due to economic exigencies, Tim Sullivan, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, stated: “We look forward to the prospect of collaborating with you in the future.”

Good luck with that…

According to Sullivan, “the ongoing impact of Covid and multiple global conflicts on the supply chain, rising costs, an irreconcilable operating gap and the corresponding financial burdens it will create for New Jersey’s taxpayers” had prompted the State Legislature to withdraw financial support, “leaving us to determine that this project is unfortunately no longer feasible.”

A June 2021 article for Curbed by Zachary Small (now a NY Times reporter) foresaw some of the economic drawbacks:

Longtime residents and local legislators have balked at the price….”We just raised a levy on homeowners because we didn’t have the money for school funding. How can we bring more financial debt to the table for a museum?” (asked City Councilman Rolando Lavarro).

That said, the project’s proponents have maintained that the operating expenses would have been defrayed by income and donations, according to Small’s detailed report in yesterday’s Times hardcopy. Small suggested that state politics may have been a deciding factor in the change of plans:

Fulop said the situation changed after he rescinded his support for Tammy Murphy, the governor’s wife, in the state’s Democratic primary to succeed Senator Robert Menendez, who is on trial for federal bribery charges. In March, Mr. Fulop pledged support for Representative Andy Kim, saying his initial endorsement of Tammy Murphy was “wrong.”

“There is no question in my mind that this is directly related to my support of Andy Kim,” Mr. Fulop said of the state’s decision to withdraw funding.

Don’t get me started on the vagaries of Jersey politics!





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