Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Wednesday that the Cleveland-based museum is opening an annex in downtown Manhattan. It is the first of several planned outposts that will take its collection of artifacts to a wider audience, possibly as far as the Middle East.
Billy Joel and Clive Davis joined the mayor at the location in SoHo where the annex will open in November. Joel, who said he was donating some memorabilia to the museum, recalled how he has played every New York venue from Carnegie Hall to Shea Stadium.
"New York gave me my words and my music, and rock and roll gave me a place for that music to live," Joel said.
The 25,000-square-foot annex will house Bruce Springsteen's 1957 Chevy and will feature a number of different exhibits, including one with New York City sites that have musical significance.
"There really isn't a more fitting spot for this museum than New York, the hometown of hall of famers like the Velvet Underground, Paul Simon and Blondie... this is where Ed Sullivan met the Beatles, where Lou Reed took a walk on the wild side," Bloomberg said.
Museum officials are counting on the branches to provide new revenue streams, attract more philanthropy dollars and entice more people to visit the hall of fame in Cleveland.
Another annex being planned for Las Vegas will be located on or near the Strip and will be less focused on rock artifacts and more entertainment oriented, according to Terry Stewart, president and CEO of the rock museum. A city has not been selected for the proposed Middle East branch.
The annexes mark the museum's first effort to build a presence outside of Cleveland. The concept follows a trend set by other museums like the Guggenheim and the Louvre, and comes in a year when the hall has announced some notable changes, including a major interior renovation of its lakefront museum and the return of the induction ceremony to Cleveland in 2009 after more than a decade-long absence.
The New York annex will be open for a minimum of two years, longer if it proves successful. It's backed financially by Running Subway Productions, a New York-based entertainment company known for "Bodies ... The Exhibition" and the Broadway production of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"
Among the planned exhibits is "New York Rocks," which is dedicated to Big Apple artists such as Joel and the Talking Heads' David Byrne. The exhibit will feature an interactive map of musically significant Manhattan locations such as Studio 54 and the landmarked Chelsea Hotel, whose guests and residents have included many famous artists and musicians including the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious. The front awning and cash register of the recently closed club CBGB will be on display.
A number of exhibits that appeared in Cleveland will also make their way to New York, beginning with the museum's look at the Clash.
Other exhibits will give visitors a sample of the hall's collection and prod visitors to either visit the main museum or provide philanthropic support.
For the most part, the rock hall's induction ceremonies are held in New York City.
Attendance at the rock hall was 451,000 in 2007, up 8 percent from 2006, but still way down from the 872,700 who visited in 1996, its first full year in operation.
Admission at the New York annex, located on Mercer Street, will be $26 for adults. The Cleveland museum charges $22 for adult admission.
Advance tickets will be available through RockAnnex.com beginning in October.
By Sara Kugler and Joe Milicia