NYC’s Fotografiska museum to close and relocate, historic Park Ave South building to hit market

May 28, 2024

Photo via WikiCommons

Swedish photography museum Fotografiska New York will close its New York City location with plans to relocate to a larger spot, the museum announced last week. Fotografiska opened at the historic Gramercy building at 281 Park Avenue South in 2019 and later was joined by the restaurant Verōnika and the Chapel Bar. The museum’s last day in the current building will be September 29 and the restaurant and bar will close in June. As Crain’s reported, 281 Park Avenue South owner, Aby Rosen’s RFR Holding, will put the architecturally stunning building on the market this week for an undisclosed amount.

Fotografiska was founded in Stockholm in 2010 and later expanded to other cities, including New York, Tallinn, Berlin, and Shanghai. At its Gramercy location, the museum hosted 48 photography exhibitions covering diverse topics and artists that attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Following its closure in September, the museum will host an exhibition covering a century of NYC nightlife photography in a temporary space. No details of a new location for the museum have been announced yet.

“I am immensely proud of what we accomplished with Fotografiska in just five years, cementing our role as part of the New York arts landscape through unique exhibitions and dynamic programming,” Sophie Wright, executive director of Fotografiska New York, said.

“I have tremendous respect for our staff, some of whom have been with us since opening, and offer my sincerest gratitude for their dedication and talent that contributed to our successes. I look forward to sharing updates for our upcoming programming.”

Constructed between 1892 and 1894 for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church, 281 Park Avenue South features a Flemish Renaissance Revival style and a striking limestone facade. The building, known as the Church Missions House, was part of an area formerly known as “Charity Row.” It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, according to Crain’s.

The building also gained notoriety due to Anna Delvey (aka Anna Sorokin), a self-proclaimed German heiress and con artist who sought to open an arts center inside the historic space before her scams were exposed and she was arrested in 2017.

RFR Holding bought the building for $50 million in 2014 from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and signed a 15-year lease in 2017 with Fotografiska to occupy the 45,000-square-foot space.

CetraRuddy led the restoration and redesign of the landmarked space, along with Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, which included preserving the stained-glass windows and limestone and granite facade.

As Crain’s reported, an RFR representative said the building would be marketed either for lease or sale, but declined to provide a listing price or an exact day when the property would list.

The property was last listed in 2022 for $135 million by brokers Tal and Oren Alexander of the Alexander Team, but it did not sell. RFR is currently selecting a new agent.

Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait, New York, NY, 1954. Photo courtesy of Fotografiska.

Exhibits featuring late photographer Vivian Maier, opening on May 31, and NYC street photographer Bruce Gilden, opening on June 21, will be the final two exhibitions at Fotografiska.

Verōnika, located on the second floor, will remain open until mid-June. Named after the patron saint of photography, the 150-seat restaurant is inspired by grand European cafes, with 20-foot ceilings, brass chandeliers, wood-trimmed doorways, velvet banquettes, and leather chairs. Designed by Roman and Williams, the eatery opened in January 2020. The cocktail bar Chapel Bar will also close next month.

Fotografiska currently offers a $10 discounted admission on the second Sunday of every month.

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