Alumna Ramona Bronkar Bannayan '86 Senior Deputy Director of Exhibitions on MoMAs Reopening

BY Audrey Deng, October 28, 2019

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York reopened to the public on Oct. 21 since its closing in June, revealing a $450 million expansion and breathtaking renovations, including a 30% increase in space. This major reinstallation of art across all 170,000 square feet of the museum has been largely admired by visitors and critics alike; the New York Times praised this expansion for being “possibly unprecedented.” “These exhibitions, several of which are reviewed below, clarify the museum’s ambitious reformation project and provide a valuable commentary on the permanent collection in their midst.”

Alumna Ramona Bronkar Bannayan '86 played a crucial role in the museum’s reopening. As the museum’s Senior Deputy Director of Exhibitions, she oversees the administration of the entire roster of temporary exhibitions, gallery rotations, performance, film, and collection shows, supervising an annual program of approximately 50 on-site presentations. She has worked with the Museum since 1990.

Bannayan talked about her role in the new MoMA on WNYC’s show All of It: “I’m basically involved from the original ideation when it comes forward as a proposal, to seeing it all the way through to the walls,” Bannayan said. She worked with teams of artists from conceptualization to execution of the MoMA’s historic expansion. Bannayan herself is an artist, and enjoyed the physicality of the work in removing and installing paintings. With this new MoMA, Bannayan hopes that the range of exhibits will diversify: “There is a lot more opportunity to have large exhibitions, as well as to have really small jewel-like beautiful in-depth exhibitions someone can immerse themselves in, perhaps in one room.”

On BBC’s podcast In the Studio, Bannayan said earlier this year, in anticipation of the project, “Every single work of art will be removed, and then everything will be reinstalled. We will probably have 10,000 object movements over the course of the next six months, probably touch about 6,000 individual objects as part of this process.” Since the museum’s re-opening, When asked if she was pleased, she said, “Enormously pleased. There are moments when I’m walking through it, I almost get a little emotional. I’ve had moments of absolute sheer joy and happiness.”

Bannayan has a BFA (1983) from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and an MFA (1986) in Visual Arts from Columbia University, where she graduated with honors. Since graduation, Bannayan has maintained her studio practice. She works with a variety of materials including pastels, conte, watercolor, gesso and charcoal to create small square format landscapes. Her work has been included in exhibitions with Wolf Kahn, Lois Dodd, Emily Nelligan and Eric Aho among others. One of her images was even selected for interpretation by poet Mark Doty.

Bannayan currently serves on the Columbia University Alumni Trustee Nominating Committee for the School of the Arts. She is also on Dean Carol Becker’s Advisory Committee, and she remains an active part of the Columbia University community.