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Transformed Yale University Art Gallery to open in December 2012
Yale University Art Gallery (left to right: Kahn Building, Old Yale Art Gallery, and Street Hall). South Exterior Elevation. ©Ennead Architects.

NEW HAVEN, CT.- The Yale University Art Gallery, in New Haven, Connecticut, the oldest and one of the most important university art museums in America, is in the final phase of a renovation and expansion that will transform the visitor experience of both the museum and its esteemed collections. The project will enable the Gallery not only to enhance its role as one of the nation's most prominent teaching institutions but also to join the ranks of the country's leading public art museums. The expanded Gallery will open in December 2012.

The $135 million* renovation increases the space occupied by the Gallery from one-and-a-half buildings—the 1953 modernist structure designed by Louis Kahn and approximately half of the adjacent 1928 Old Yale Art Gallery, designed by Egerton Swartwout—to three. The project began with the critically acclaimed restoration of the Kahn building and continues today with the renovation and expansion of the Old Yale Art Gallery and the contiguous 1866 Street Hall, designed by Peter Bonnett Wight and home to the Gallery from 1866 to 1928. It unites the three buildings into a cohesive whole while maintaining the distinctive architectural identity of each.

When complete, the expanded gallery will contain 69,975 square feet of exhibition space (enlarged from 40,266 square feet prior to the expansion) and will occupy the length of one-and-a-half city blocks. With new areas for exhibitions and object study, combined with a comprehensive plan for public and educational programming, the project will vastly increase access to the Gallery's encyclopedic collections.

Jock Reynolds, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, states, “My colleagues and I are thrilled to be entering the final phase of the expansion and renovation of the Gallery. This project has in many ways enabled our teaching museum to reinvigorate itself, allowing us to build and diversify our collections and to make them more fully and readily accessible to a larger public and a broader range of scholars and students than ever before. At the same time, it has been carefully and sensitively designed to ensure that the Gallery’s rich and unique collecting and architectural legacies remain at the forefront of the visitor experience.”

The renovation and expansion have been led by Duncan Hazard and Richard Olcott, partners in the New York City–based Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership Architects). Mr. Hazard is also the lead architectural planner for the University’s Master Plan for the Yale Arts Area, of which the Gallery renovation is a key element.

Expansion Project
Planning for the renovation of the Gallery began in 1998, and the first phase of construction—on the landmark Kahn building—commenced in 2003. Completed in December 2006, the building, which is widely considered to be the architect’s first masterpiece, was returned to its original purity and integrity, including recapturing expansive, unobstructed vistas while introducing up-to-date building systems.

The project continues today with the renovation and restoration of both the Italianate Gothic Old Yale Art Gallery and the Ruskinian Gothic Street Hall, which was most recently occupied by the University’s History of Art department. Work on the buildings has included restoration of the interiors of Street Hall—including the preservation and reuse of historic architectural elements and finishes—as well as of the masonry façades of both of the older buildings. To ensure that the reconfigured Gallery provides both an up-to-date environment for art and a seamless visitor experience, the architects have also introduced a new stairway and elevator to unify circulation patterns into a logical flow, upgraded the mechanical systems, and improved the thermal performance of the exterior walls, among numerous other undertakings.

In addition to the work on the existing buildings, the architects have added a rooftop structure that provides a suite of new temporary-exhibition galleries. Clad in zinc and glass, this addition is set back from the perimeter of the roof, creating a sculpture terrace.

Collection Installation
On completion of the expansion, the Gallery will be able to install a vastly larger portion of its collections than heretofore possible. The current installation of European art displayed some 135 works; the new galleries will feature about 350. Moreover, visitors will also see numerous objects that have never before been shown at the Gallery. This will include a new installation of Indo-Pacific art, comprising ethnographic sculptures from Southeast Asia, medieval Javanese gold, and textiles from Indonesia, which will establish the Gallery as one of the country’s leaders in this field. An extensive new installation of coins and medals has been enabled by the transfer of the University’s Numismatics Collection to the Gallery from Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library. A rare group of late 19th-century lunettes and ceiling murals— donated to the Gallery after they were removed from the Collis Huntington mansion on Fifth Avenue when it was demolished in 1926—have been restored and will be on view for the first time. In addition to new displays, recently acquired objects from all collection areas—including Japanese screens, African antiquities, Roman portraits, 19th-century American painting, and contemporary sculptures, among many other examples—will be on view throughout the Gallery.

Gallery curators and the architects have collaborated in an effort to ensure that the new galleries meet the needs of the art that they will house. The display of ancient art, which will be installed in one of the first exhibition spaces seen by visitors after entering the building, will include a separate room devoted to the Gallery’s important and renowned collection of artifacts from the ancient city of Dura-Europos, in present-day Syria. The galleries for modern and contemporary art will have 16-foot ceilings and vast interiors to allow for large-scale works, while European art will occupy a series of more intimate galleries. Although the pattern of circulation through the galleries will be uninterrupted, visitors will encounter a number of spaces designed for quiet contemplation.

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