The International Center of Photography Plans to Move For a Second Time in Less Than Two Years

Just over a year after inaugurating a new flagship at 250 Bowery, New York’s International Center of Photography (ICP) has announced plans to move yet again. This time, the museum is heading to Essex Crossing, a new $1.5 billion mixed-use complex on the Lower East Side designed by SHoP Architects. The move will reunite the museum with its school, which remained in Midtown following the ICP’s 2016 move.

Though the news may seem surprising so soon after the institution’s most recent relocation, the ICP was in something of a bind. It had been forced to move in January 2015 after its rent-free lease expired in Midtown, in a building owned by the Durst Organization. It considered securing an additional space at 250 Bowery for the school or other nearby locations, or moving again, to Essex Crossing.

“We had been looking at many different options,” ICP executive director Mark Lubell told artnet News. “There wasn’t the intention that we were going to be moving out as soon as this.” Relocating, after all, comes at a high price: Traffic was down from 160,000 to 100,000 in the first year after the move, which was in line with projections as audience adjusted to the change. However, attendance has increased with each show, and the demographics are younger and more diverse than at the previous location, according to Lubell.

Essex Crossing, future home of the International Center of Photography (rendering). Courtesy of Moso Studio.

A rendering of Essex Crossing, future home of the International Center of Photography. Courtesy of Moso Studio.

Essex Crossing had been in search of a cultural anchor after Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum abandoned plans to open a New York outpost on the site. The museum had unveiled designs for a 10,000-square-foot facility that they hoped would entice viewers to make the journey to Pennsylvania, but pulled out of the development in 2015.

“We wanted to find a world-class institution, but also an organization that would be accessible to the community, from practicing artists and schoolchildren and their families,” Paul Pariser, the co-chief executive of Taconic Investment Partners, one of three building partners on the complex, said in a statement. “ICP will deliver that rare blend.”

The new International Center of Photography at 250 Bowery. Courtesy of photographer Saul Metnick and the International Center of Photography.

The International Center of Photography at 250 Bowery. Courtesy of Saul Metnick and the International Center of Photography.

At Essex Crossing, the ICP will occupy a 40,000-square-foot, four-story building designed by Gensler. The institution will also occupy two additional floors at the adjacent residential building at 242 Bowery.

Perhaps most importantly, the space will include room for both the museum and its school. Since the Bowery opened, the school has remained in Midtown, across the street from the old flagship, in a 27,000-square-foot space that has been its home since 2001.

“The goal for the last 20 years has been to put everything back together,” said Lubell. The new location is more integrated, “it’s not a bifurcation of a school and a museum,” he said. “The goal is to look at how we can combine these two activities into one space.”

As the second-largest development project in the city, after Hudson Yards, Essex Crossing was an appealing location to Lubell. It doesn’t enjoy proximity to a major art museum—like the current does now with the New Museum is across the street—but the Tenement Museum is just a couple of blocks away, as is the forthcoming Lowline underground park.

The International Center of Photography's former building. Photo: Jim Henderson via Wikimedia Commons

The International Center of Photography’s former building. Courtesy of Jim Henderson via Wikimedia Commons.

“The Lower East Side is home to 150 art galleries,” said Lubell, adding that Essex Crossing has plans for a market, movie theater, and bowling alley as well as other attractions. “I think that in time, this area is going to be very vibrant and heavily trafficked.”

Essex Crossing is expected to be completed in full in 2024, with the ICP museum opening in early 2019. The school will continue to run in Midtown through the end of the school year, before transitioning downtown in the summer of that year.

ICP will sell its current 11,000-square-foot home to help pay for the move.

Currently, ICP is showing 25 years’ worth of photographs from Lauren Greenfield, documenting the growing obsession with wealth and status both here in the US and around the world, in “Generation Wealth,” on view through January 7, 2018.

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