The Yale University Art Gallery, in New Haven, Connecticut, has completed major work on its renovation and expansion and commenced installation of the museum’s esteemed collections. The revitalized Gallery will open to the public on December 12, 2012. The expansion project, which has been accompanied by parallel growth in the museum’s holdings, will transform the visitor experience, enabling 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 expansion and renovation have been designed and led by Duncan Hazard and Richard Olcott, partners in the New York City-based Ennead 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.
The expansion project has increased the space occupied by the museum from one-and-a-half buildings—the 1953 modernist structure designed by Louis Kahn and approximately half of the 1928 “Old Yale Art Gallery,” designed by Egerton Swartwout—to three, encompassing the Kahn building, the entire Old Art Gallery, and the contiguous 1866 Street Hall, designed by Peter Bonnett Wight (and home to the Gallery from 1867 to 1928). The project has united the three buildings into a cohesive whole while maintaining the distinctive architectural identity of each.
The Gallery now contains 64,375 square feet of exhibition space, compared to 40,266 square feet prior to the expansion, and occupies 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 expansion enables vastly increased access to the Gallery’s encyclopedic collections.
Jock Reynolds, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, states, “It has been thrilling to watch the renovation of the Gallery unfold, as splendid new spaces are created and old ones restored to their original beauty, long-obscured views and sightlines are recovered, and architectural details recaptured. The buildings will truly come to life as we begin installation of the artworks, when new acquisitions will join longtime favorites, and the collections will be seen in a new light, both literally and figuratively. Ennead Architects’ superb design has been undertaken with great sensitivity to the architecture, the collections, and the distinguished history of the Gallery. And, of course, none of this would have been possible without the visionary leadership of Yale President Richard C. Levin and the Gallery’s supremely supportive Board of Governors.”
Planning for the renovation of the Gallery began in 1998, and the first phase of construction—restoration of the landmark Kahn building—commenced in 2003. Completed in December 2006, this returned the building, which is widely considered to be the architect’s first masterpiece, to its original purity and integrity, while introducing up-to-date building systems.
The current phase of work has entailed the renovation and restoration of both the neo-Florentine Gothic Old Art Gallery and the Ruskinian Gothic Street Hall, which was most recently occupied by the University’s art history department. This encompassed 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 also introduced a new stairway and elevator to unify circulation patterns into a logical flow, upgraded the mechanical systems, and enhanced the thermal performance of the exterior walls, among numerous other improvements.
In addition to the work on the existing buildings, the architects 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 space for a sculpture terrace.
Yale University Art Gallery
The Yale University Art Gallery—the oldest and one of the most important university art museums in America—was founded in 1832, when patriot-artist John Trumbull donated more than 100 paintings to Yale College and designed a gallery to house them. Since then, the Gallery’s collections have grown to number more than 200,000 objects from around the world, ranging in date from ancient times to the present day.
Among these holdings are the celebrated collections of American paintings and decorative arts; outstanding collections of Greek and Roman art, including the artifacts excavated at Dura-Europos; the Jarves, Griggs, and Rabinowitz collections of early Italian paintings; masterpieces of European art, including works by Hans Holbein, Frans Hals, Peter Paul Rubens, Eugène Delacroix, Édouard Manet, and Vincent van Gogh; Asian art; African art from diverse cultures, including a stellar group of nearly 600 objects donated to the Gallery by the late Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, and around 200 African antiquities from the SusAnna and Joel Grae collection; sculptures and textiles from the new Department of Indo-Pacific art; art of the ancient Americas; the Société Anonyme Collection of early twentieth-century European and American art; and a growing collection of modern and contemporary works.
The Gallery has remained open throughout its fourteen-year renovation project, and since 2006 it has continued to present an active program of special exhibitions and permanent-collection installations in the Kahn building. As part of the museum’s efforts to share its collections with a broader public, it has also organized traveling exhibitions, which are presented at museums across the country.
Master Plan for the Yale Arts Area
The Gallery’s renovation and expansion project is an important element of Yale University’s Master Plan for the Yale Arts Area, developed in the mid 1990s to facilitate the preservation of important historic buildings while improving and expanding arts facilities. The ambitious Master Plan for the Yale Arts Area is intended to benefit not only the University community, but also the people of New Haven and visitors from across the nation and around the world.