On September 30, 2016, the East Building galleries of the National Gallery of Art, which house the modern collection and several temporary exhibition spaces, will reopen after three years of renovation of existing galleries and construction of new galleries and a roof terrace. A completely new configuration of the permanent collection of modern art will be unveiled to the public on this date.
Constructed with private donations within the existing I. M. Pei-designed East Building (opened in 1978) on the National Mall, more than 12,250 square feet of new spaces for art will enable the Gallery to present more art and accommodate an increasing number of visitors. New stairs connecting all levels of the building and a new large elevator will improve access and encourage visitors to explore the galleries and works of art on all levels.
The new spaces will include the Roof Terrace—an outdoor sculpture terrace overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue—as well as two flanking, sky-lit, interior tower galleries. The Roof Terrace will feature several outdoor sculptures, including the monumental, electric blue Hahn/Cock (2013) by Katharina Fritsch, on view from July 2016 as a long-term loan from Glenstone Museum in Potomac, MD. The northwest Tower Gallery will showcase a lively installation of works by Alexander Calder (1898–1976), and the northeast Tower Gallery will present abstract expressionist works, including a changing selection of paintings by Mark Rothko (1903–1970), most of them given to the Gallery by the Mark Rothko Foundation in 1986 (a gift that made the Gallery the largest public repository of his art). Trees, plantings, and built-in seating will make the Roof Terrace an inviting place to relax, look out over the city, and see the architecture of the East Building from an entirely new perspective.
I. M. Pei & Partners, National Gallery of Art East Building Design Team Sketch for the East Building, fall 1968, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gallery Archives, Gift of I. M. Pei & Partners.
The East Building
Paul Mellon speaking at the podium during the National Gallery of Art East Building Opening Dedication Ceremony, June 1, 1978. President Jimmy Carter and Reverend John T. Walker are pictured behind Mellon. Photo by Bill Sumits, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gallery Archives.
In the spirit of the public and private initiative that created the National Gallery of Art in the late 1930s, several Washington philanthropists have given a combined $30 million to the Gallery, allowing the construction of new public spaces: Victoria P. Sant, Trustee emerita (Gallery president at the time of the gift); her husband Roger W. Sant, a member of the Gallery's Trustees' Council; Mitchell Rales, a member of the Gallery's Board of Trustees; his wife Emily Rales; and David M. Rubenstein, a member of the Gallery's Board of Trustees.
The interior expansion has occurred in coordination with the federally funded Master Facilities Plan, a renovation program that began in the West Building in 1999 and continues in the East Building. Subsequent phases of the renovations in other parts of the East Building will be announced at a later date.
"This gift to the nation by these generous donors will enable us to exhibit more art from our ever-growing modern collection in spaces that will be at once spacious, airy, and contemplative," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "We are continually grateful for the federal funding that enables us to protect and present the nation's art collection, as well as offer exhibitions of art spanning the world and the history of art, free of charge, seven days a week, for current and future generations."
Hahn/Cock (2013) by Katharina Fritsch
German artist Katharina Fritsch's Hahn/Cock as it appeared on Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth in London in 2013. Hahn/Cock, on loan to the National Gallery of Art from Glenstone Museum, will be installed on the new Roof Terrace in July, two months ahead of the East Building reopening. Image copyright EPA/ANDY RAIN.
Hahn/Cock (2013) by Katharina Fritsch (German, b. 1956) will be installed on the Roof Terrace in mid-July, two months ahead of the East Building reopening. Originally commissioned for the City of London’s series of temporary public artworks installed in Trafalgar Square, the 14.5-foot-tall sculpture, made of glass fiber reinforced polyester resin on a stainless steel structure, was unveiled on July 25, 2013 and remained on view for 18 months. Hahn/Cock will be on long-term loan courtesy of Glenstone, the museum of contemporary art in Potomac, Maryland, which acquired the work in 2014.
“The relocation of this enigmatic monument from its original site in Trafalgar Square will add a surprising blast of color to one corner of the National Mall, while stimulating fascinating conversations about scale, context, nationality, and representation,” said Harry Cooper, curator and head of modern art, National Gallery of Art.
Free Public Programs
Community Weekend: Celebrating the Reopening of the East Building
November 5, 10:00–5:00
November 6, 11:00–6:00
This celebratory weekend will feature live music and inspiring performances, interactive tours of modern art, and hands-on art making. Explore the reconfigured collection of modern art, showcased in newly renovated galleries, and discover the new outdoor Roof Terrace. All activities are free; participation is on a first-come, first-served basis. A detailed schedule will be available online in September. Community Weekend is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.
After Hours in the East Building
Second Thursday of the month, October 2016-April 2017
6:00–9:00 pm; ages 21 and up
Enjoy a vibrant mix of art and entertainment, including music, films, and live performances, in the newly renovated East Building. Discover the museum’s collections and special exhibitions with fun and interactive events throughout the evening. Tickets required; reserve a free ticket online. Tickets become available on the Friday one month before each program date. All activities are free; food and beverages are available for purchase.
East Building Shop
The East Building will open with a redesigned museum shop, including an exciting assortment of reproductions, publications, jewelry, and giftware inspired by 20th- and 21st-century masters, contemporary art movements, and current exhibitions.
On September 30, 2016, the Gallery will unveil three temporary exhibitions for the reopening of the East Building. In the southwest Tower Gallery, In the Tower: Barbara Krugerwill be on view through January 22, 2017, the latest in a series of exhibitions focusing on developments in art since midcentury.
In newly renovated spaces designed to handle the frequent movement of works of art, two exhibitions will premiere. Photography Reinvented: The Collection of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, on view through March 5, 2017, brings together a pledged gift of 30 works by critically important artists who have changed the course of photography through their experimentation and conceptual scope. In Los Angeles to New York: The Dwan Gallery, 1959–1971, on view through January 29, 2017, the remarkable career of gallerist and patron Virginia Dwan will be featured front and center for the first time in an exhibition of some 100 works, including highlights from Dwan's promised gift of her extraordinary personal collection to the National Gallery of Art.
The Gallery has launched a new social media campaign to commemorate the museum's 75th anniversary. Using #MyNGADC across Twitter and Instagram, the Gallery will encourage the online community to share their personal connections to the museum. Throughout 2016, the Gallery will share the stories of its collection and its artists, and using #MyNGADC, ask the public to answer the question: "What about the Gallery inspires you?"
An Ongoing Public/Private Initiative
The National Gallery of Art was founded by Andrew W. Mellon (1855–1937), a financier, art collector, and Secretary of the Treasury. His gift to the nation—including the West Building, his art collection, and an endowment—set an example that has enabled this national institution to remain open to the public free of charge and to grow through gifts from other generous donors. His gift was accepted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the US Congress, which pledged ongoing funds for administration, upkeep, and operations, as well as for the protection and care of the works of art.
The East Building of the National Gallery of Art was built with funds donated by Paul Mellon and his sister Ailsa Mellon Bruce (philanthropists and children of Andrew W. Mellon) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Delighting 71 million visitors since it opened on June 1, 1978, the East Building has provided an eloquent setting for the display of great works of modern art from the permanent collection, some 300 temporary exhibitions, a library and rare book collection, administrative offices, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, which fosters international understanding of art and culture.
While harmonizing with architect John Russell Pope's neoclassical West Building, the award-winning East Building was designed by architect I. M. Pei in the modern idiom of its time. Magnificently realizing the long-term vision of Gallery founder Andrew W. Mellon, the East Building has taken its place as one of the great public structures in the nation's capital. As the time for renovations drew near, Gallery officials consulted Pei on interior architectural changes required by updated fire and life-safety codes. Pei recommended his longtime associate, Perry Y. Chin, who prepared a concept design. The design focused on the underutilized attic spaces above the glass laylight ceilings, creating two new tower galleries connected by a roof terrace. Hartman-Cox Architects was retained by the Gallery to further develop the design and see it through construction.
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