Brooklyn Museum marks 200th anniversary with a yearlong celebration

February 1, 2024

Brooklyn Museum plaza garden and OY/YO sculpture, 04/20/2023. Brooklyn Museum. (Photo: Andrew Brincka)

Founded in 1824 as Brooklyn’s first free circulating library, the Brooklyn Museum has supported and promoted art and culture in New York City for 200 years. To mark its 200th anniversary, the museum is hosting a yearlong birthday party, kicking off this fall, with special events, exhibitions, programs, and even a new Museum on Wheels. 

Brooklyn Museum, 1897. (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)

Two centuries ago, the Brooklyn Apprentices’ Library was founded in Brooklyn Heights as the first free and circulating library in the borough. The library later became the Brooklyn Institute, which displayed artwork and offered lectures on diverse topics. Plans to build a new building for what was then called the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science, the precursor to the Brooklyn Museum, were in the works by 1890; McKim, Mead & White, the architecture firm behind the lauded original Penn Station, was hired to design the building.

Today, the 560,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts museum holds 500,000 objects reflective of more than 5,000 years of history. 

The anniversary programming, sponsored by Bank of America, will “reinterpret” the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, highlight its connection to local artists, and improve accessibility to the museum’s holdings in every borough.

First Saturday. Brooklyn Museum, June 2022. (Photo: Kolin Mendez)

The celebration begins in October with a special edition of First Saturdays, the monthly free program hosted by the museum. The “Birthday Bash” will include live music, dance, poetry, artist and curator talks, and local vendors. 

Debuting October 4 is “The Brooklyn Artists Exhibition,” a group exhibition featuring Brooklyn artists selected by a committee made up of artists Jeffrey Gibson, Vik Muniz, Mickalene Thomas, and Fred Tomaselli. The exhibition will include the largest number of artists from Brooklyn featured at once at the museum. 

That same weekend, the museum will open the reinstallation of the American Art Galleries, which will offer a new presentation of over 400 artworks from 4000 B.C.E. through today, with an emphasis on historically marginalized voices. 

Sections of the fifth-floor American Art galleries will close starting February 5 to prepare for the reinstallation.

Later this year and into early 2025, the museum will open exhibits dedicated to gold, art and design made in Brooklyn, the history of the museum building, and sculptor Nancy Elizabeth Prophet. 

The “Museum on Wheels” will launch as a pilot program this July and bring programming to communities across Brooklyn. The mobile art bus, officially launching next spring, will work with communities on issues like climate change, mass criminalization, and local economic growth, according to the museum.

“The Brooklyn Museum is a cornerstone of the city’s culture,” Barbara M. Vogelstein, Chairman of the Brooklyn Museum’s Board of Trustees, said. “For 200 years, we have brought people together to engage in the dynamic energy of Brooklyn and all that the borough represents, from creativity to innovation to community.”

“Throughout my years supporting the Museum, I have seen an exceptional trajectory. Our next chapter will build on our strengths as we continue to champion art that awakens, provokes, and inspires.”


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