The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame swept into New York City with much fanfare a year ago, rekindling a debate over why the main museum was built in Cleveland in the first place. But better that it was. The Rock Hall’s New York adjunct museum, known as the Annex, is abruptly closing.
In a short news release and announcement on its Web site, the museum said the annex would close Jan. 3 at 8pm. Backers are talking about taking the exhibit on the road to various cities, but gave no reason for the closing.
“Fans have just one more month to experience the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC showcasing rare artifacts from legendary artists including Springsteen, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson and its featured exhibit, “John Lennon: New York City Years,” the announcement said.
While annex’s principal backer, S2BN Entertainment, gave no reason for the closing, the recession, poor marketing and high admission price, may have cut attendance well below the 500,000 annual visitors the annexed hoped to draw.
“The business just hasn’t succeeded the way they initially hoped that it would,” a worker told the NYPost. “We did get a lot of people when the John Lennon exhibit opened in the summer, but since then, it’s been very slow.”
When it first opened, the 25,000-square-foot annex in Soho at 76 Mercer Street was described as an “experiential, technologically advanced exhibition.”
It focused on the greatest moments in rock history and was designed to “resonate with everyone from the casual music fan to the seasoned rock enthusiast.”
Indeed, the rock museum had big ambitions when it established its New York foothold. Museum Chief Executive Terry Stewart likened it to similar moves by the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the UK’s Tate Modern in London, and the Louvre in Paris.
“These projects allow museums to extend their reach, but also provide space to travel exhibits and allow curators to display some of our priceless artifacts for the first time outside of Cleveland,” he said.
But the annex had some shortcomings from the outset. For one, it was located in a basement, below an Old Navy store, which gave it no Street presence. While SoHo is considered hip, it’s known for shopping not museums.
In addition the annexed charged $26 per person in admission, for what amounted to little over an hour’s worth of exhibition viewing – a hefty price for boomer tourists, likely with kids in tow.
In contrast, the 150,000-square-foot, I.M. Pei-designed museum in Cleveland charges around $22. The hall of fame was established in 1983 and the Cleveland facility opened in 1995.
Most major New York museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have a “suggested” admission of $20, but you don’t have to pay to get in; the admission price is just a suggested contribution. It would take a day or more to get through the Met’s collections.
Still, the annex gave visitors a chance to see memorabilia from some of the greatest moments in popular music, including New York City’s role in its development.
In addition to tributes to artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it also included such rare items as a handwritten poem by Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley’s motorcycle jacket, Michael Jackson’s velvet jacket from “We Are The World” production, John Lennon’s Record Plant Piano and Bruce Springsteen’s 1957 Chevy.
To open the annex, the Cleveland museum joined production company Running Subway and two other producers, Jam Exhibitions and S2BN Entertainment, a company led by Michael Cohl, the veteran concert promoter and former chairman of Live Nation.