Skip to Main Content

Release Date: March 13, 2013

National Gallery of Art, Washington, Receives $30 Million in Donations to Add 12,260 Square Feet of New Exhibition Space to the East Building; East Building Galleries to Start Closing in July 2013 for Renovations

Designed by I. M. Pei, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art has a dramatic glow after dark due to its Tennessee pink marble, taken from the same quarries that provided stone for the West Building. Photo © Dennis Brack/Black Star. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gallery Archives

Designed by I. M. Pei, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art has a dramatic glow after dark due to its Tennessee pink marble, taken from the same quarries that provided stone for the West Building. Photo © Dennis Brack/Black Star. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gallery Archives

Washington, DC—The National Gallery of Art plans to construct with private donations 12,260 square feet of art exhibition space within the current footprint of the East Building on the National Mall. The new spaces will include an outdoor sculpture terrace overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue and two flanking sky-lit interior Tower Galleries. They will primarily display modern art from the permanent collection. This work will occur 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. During this phase of the East Building renovation, galleries will close on a gradual basis from July 2013 through December 2013, when all of the galleries will be closed. Construction will begin in January 2014 and last approximately three years, at which time the galleries will reopen. Subsequent phases of the renovations in other parts of the East Building will be announced at a later date.

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 $30 million to the Gallery, allowing it to construct the new public spaces: Victoria P. Sant, Gallery president; 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, co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, a DC-based global alternative asset manager.

"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."

New Tower Galleries and Terrace—The two new Tower Galleries, inspired by the current Tower Gallery in the southwest pod of the East Building, will be carved out of the lay-light areas between the ceiling of the upper level galleries used for exhibitions and the skylights above them. Each gallery will be hexagonal in shape and approximately 23 feet high, with wood floors and white walls capped by skylights.

The new Tower Gallery in the northwest pod at the corner of Fourth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW will provide 2,965 square feet of usable public space, while the other gallery in the northeast pod near Third Street will offer an additional 3,190 square feet. The installations will focus on important aspects of modern art from the permanent collection, including paintings by Mark Rothko (1903–1970), as the Gallery is the largest public repository of his art. The galleries may also be used to present focused loan exhibitions.

The outdoor sculpture terrace between the galleries will measure 6,105 square feet and will include stone paving, seating, and tree planters. It will provide a transition space between the two new Tower Galleries for viewing several sculptures and the cityscape of Pennsylvania Avenue facing north. It will also include a seasonal refreshment area with tables and chairs. The architectural firm Hartman-Cox in Washington, DC, has been retained by the Gallery and will be preparing construction documents.

East Building Closings and Dates—The gradual closing of galleries in the East Building in the second half of 2013 will begin with the room of cutouts by Henri Matisse in the Concourse galleries on July 22, 2013. Beginning September 30, the Main Floor galleries displaying Small French Paintings will be closed and works of art will be part of a traveling loan show, details to be announced. Starting in October, all other galleries will be closed on a rolling basis through December 2013. Construction begins in January 2014. For the most up-to-date details on East Building gallery closures and for purposes of planning a visit, the public is advised to refer to the Gallery's website at

The East Building atrium, with such renowned sculptures as Untitled (1976), the largest mobile ever created by Alexander Calder, and Andy Goldsworthy's Roof (2004–2005), will remain open. Visitors may access the Concourse and walkway to the West Building, and enjoy Leo Villareal's Multiverse (2008), the Gallery Shops, and the Cascade Café and Espresso Bar. The library in the East Building will remain open by appointment and its program of focus installations will remain open to the public.

Programs in the East Building Auditorium, such as lectures and films, may be moved to other locations within the Gallery. Changes of location will be announced to the public in a timely manner on the Gallery's website and in social media, as well as in public calendars and other media.

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 eloquent settings for the display of great works of modern art from the permanent collection, some 240 temporary exhibitions (through calendar year 2013), 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 structural changes required by updated fire and life-safety codes. Perry Chin, a longtime associate of Pei's, focused on the underutilized lay-light spaces and with Pei proposed two new Tower Galleries and a sculpture terrace.

General Information

For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]
Anabeth Guthrie
Chief of Communications
(202) 842-6804
[email protected]

The Gallery also offers a broad range of newsletters for various interests. Follow this link to view the complete list.

Order Press Images

To order publicity images: Click on the link above and designate your desired images using the checkbox below each thumbnail. Please include your name and contact information, press affiliation, deadline for receiving images, the date of publication, and a brief description of the kind of press coverage planned.

Press Release