The East and West Buildings of the National Gallery of Art are home to thousands of masterpieces, as well as significant works of architecture in their own right. To preserve these historic buildings and improve their accessibility, energy efficiency, and infrastructure, the museum is committed to its Master Facilities Plan, an ongoing, phased approach to long-term repair, restoration, and renovation.
Major renovations to the north side of the East Building were completed in 2016. Since 2019, additional work has been underway to renovate the galleries on the west side, improve accessibility throughout the building, overhaul select building systems, and replace the iconic Atrium skylight, which is original to the building and over 40 years old. Skylight replacement will be completed in early spring 2022, followed by art reinstallation in the Atrium.
This phase of renovation work was designed around the priority of remaining open to the public throughout construction. With the East Building reopened, most of the galleries, Atrium, and other public locations are available for visitors to enjoy.
At this time, closures within the East Building include the Terrace Café, Tower 3, the western galleries on the Upper Level, and the East Building Auditorium.
While the main entrance undergoes renovations until August 2021, entry into the East Building is possible through the Study Center entrance immediately south of the main entrance on 4th Street or through the Concourse.
The major elements of this phase of work include:
Atrium Skylight Replacement
Summer 2020—early spring 2022
The Atrium skylight is a critical component of the East Building architecture, but one in need of repair after 40 years. To replace its 23,000 square feet of glass, the National Gallery has installed an elaborate system of sliding platforms to remove existing glass panels and replace them with new ones to match. The glass is placed using small cranes positioned on the East Building roof. A suspended platform installed beneath the skylight allows construction workers to facilitate the glass replacement and reinstall various related systems safely while also protecting visitors and works of art.
To accommodate this work, Alexander Calder’s mobile in the East Building Atrium was removed and protective enclosures were installed around other large sculptures in summer 2020.
Once the glass replacement work is completed, platform deinstallation and art reinstallation will follow.
Watch National Gallery conservators, art handlers, and masons coordinate the intricate deinstallation of Alexander Calder’s mobile in the East Building Atrium:
June 2019 — fall 2021
Accessible double doors are being installed in the East Building main entrance, and new ADA-compliant restrooms have been constructed on the Ground Level near the Study Center entrance. The existing, ADA-compliant family restrooms one floor above, on the Mezzanine, are being updated.
Near the East Building Auditorium, visitors will also find a separate lobby for the accessible elevator, which has been modernized.
East Building Auditorium Updates
October 2019—spring 2021
Separate auditorium and elevator lobbies were created to improve accessibility and visitor experience. The auditorium seats have been refurbished and recovered to their original rust color, and lighting has been improved. For the first time, the public will also be able to access restrooms immediately adjacent to the East Building Auditorium.
While this phase of construction is complete, the National Gallery has suspended all in-person programs as a health and safety precaution due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To stay up to date on announcements regarding public programs in this space, sign up for our weekly newsletter, follow our social media channels, or visit www.nga.gov.
Tower 3 and West Galleries (Upper Level)
Summer 2018—summer 2022
In addition to restroom renovations on the Mezzanine, new and refurbished wood floors, lighting, and laylights are being installed in Tower 3—which houses temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art—and in the west galleries on the Upper Level, most recently home to Bodies of Work.
Fire and public safety improvements include new emergency exits and stairwell.
Artist Projects: Sarah Cain, Avish Khebrehzadeh, Kay Rosen
Three artists—all known for making works in temporary sites or architectural spaces—were commissioned to create special site-responsive installations to enliven the East Building during renovations. In mid-April, Kay Rosen's bold, language-based work SORRY (2020–2021) was installed over the East Building's Main Entrance. In the Atrium, Sarah Cain's installation My favorite season is the fall of the patriarchy (2021) jumps the bounds of a 45-foot-long painted canvas to integrate a variety of surfaces. In the Concourse, Avish Khebrehzadeh's works will be on view: a set of video animations, Seven Silent Songs (2020), and the drawing Tree of Life in Blue (2021).