by Cathy P. Ross
Jan 4, 2013
01:01 PMCulture Cat
Yale's New Masterpiece
Connecticut artist Sol LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing #786A” has been installed at the end of the new Charles B. Berenson Galleries.
Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven recently celebrated its grand reopening after the completion of the final phase of an extensive multiyear renovation. Although trumpets did not sound at the unveiling, the project’s stunning results were worthy of the majestic fanfare heralding a coronation.
The $135-million renovation began more than a decade ago with the restoration of the renowned Louis Kahn building (completed in 2006). The open geometric design with walls of windows and tetrahedral ceilings is a modernist-style marvel that brought architect Kahn international acclaim when it was built in 1953. The final phase connected the Kahn building to the 1928 Old Yale Gallery (the Swartwout building) and the 1866 Street Hall, creating one glorious museum that continues for a block-and-a-half along Chapel Street.
The design team of Duncan Hazard and Richard Olcott, partners in Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership) delivered a spectacular plan that added approximately 30,000 square feet of exhibition space (for a total of 69,975 square feet) and a new rooftop structure that houses a suite of exhibition galleries, some sky-lit. New construction blends seamlessly with old on every level. Found space within old buildings was transformed into new classrooms, study and research areas, with care taken to preserve historical and architectural details.
Gallery director Jock Reynolds, who gave us a tour, was overflowing with enthusiasm as he pointed out details about each gallery we passed through. We encountered treasures from every corner of the world—the new Arabic collection, African Art, American painting, sculpture and decorative arts, Asian Art (and that’s just the A’s). Reynolds, himself an artist, didn’t want us to miss a thing—he even led us to a hidden space where five Winslow Homer watercolors were hanging. But he really couldn’t wait to get to the modern and contemporary collections.
The opening exhibit is Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, with 100 striking works by Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, Joseph Stella and more. Masterpieces by Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Sol LeWitt and celebrated Yale alumni (Chuck Close, for one) appeared at every twist and turn. But Reynolds’ excitement went beyond the art. This gallery illustrated the possibilities of the newly finished product. “At last, visitors can fully experience the remarkable depth and sweep of the Gallery’s holdings, he said. “These paintings do not only have intrinsic value, they can also teach. Now we can make the art more easily available to students, scholars and the community.”
Admission is free. 1111 Chapel St. (at York Street). Hours: Tues.–Fri. 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thurs. until 8:00 p.m. (Sept.–June), Sat.-Sun. 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
For further information, call 203/432-0600, or visit artgallery.yale.edu.