Published: July 16, 2002
HARTFORD, CONN. – The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art will undergo a two-year expansion and renovation beginning in 2004 that will improve public access and increase gallery space significantly.
The 160-year-old art museum, which is the nation’s oldest, currently consists of five contiguous buildings connected by a labyrinth of corridors. The plans, designed by the renowned firms of UN Studio of Amsterdam and Fox & Fowle Architects, call for razing the Goodwin building and replacing it with a new building that will house 14,700 square feet of space for exhibiting temporary exhibitions and contemporary art.
The Wadsworth Atheneum currently has 45,000 pieces of art but can exhibit only 2,000, or four percent of the inventory, due largely to space limitations. The remainder is kept in secure storage. Once completed in 2006, the project will increase gallery space by more than 35 percent.
Other improvements include a grand entranceway located at Atheneum Square North, around the corner from the current Main Street entrance; an elegant public concourse running through the museum complex and providing a scenic artery to the nearby $770 million Adriaen’s Landing development; and gallery space dedicated to prominent touring shows, which have become a major attraction for the Wadsworth.
“The Wadsworth Atheneum stands among out nation’s greatest cultural treasures,” said board of trustees president George David. “Our challenge was to reinvigorate this great but aging museum, give it breathing room to display its extraordinary collections and make viewing them easier and more pleasurable for the 200,000 people who visit each year. With this project, we will achieve those goals.”
Museum Director Kate M. Sellers added, “The architectural team was presented with a formidable challenge, and they have arrived at an innovative, pragmatic and elegant solution.”
A fundraising campaign to support the museum and project, which was five years in the planning, is under way, with more than $50 million raised to date. The goal is $120 million, which includes $80 million for construction costs and related expenses, $22 million for endowment and $18 million for operations.
While the museum is closed for construction, its major collections will travel to national venues. The remainder of its extensive inventory will be stored in a secure, off-site location.
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