Gardner to unveil grand new wing at reopening
In her will Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924) stipulated that her museum, which she founded in 1903 and where she idiosyncratically installed her collection of fine and decorative art, remain largely unaltered. A copper-clad, four-storey-high building where a coach house formerly stood was never part of her vision, but this 70,000 sq. ft extension has been added to the museum that bears her name. Due to open on 19 January, the wing has been designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Italian architect Renzo Piano and has cost $118m.
Anne Hawley, the museum’s director, says that her trustees decided to expand six years ago mainly because attendance had reached 200,000 visitors a year. The pressure on the building and the collection was too great, Hawley says, and limited space curtailed events and activities. When Gardner was alive, only 2,000 people enjoyed her recreation of a 15th-century Venetian palazzo, filled with paintings, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts and textiles, complemented by concerts in its music room.
Piano’s solution is a modern building that is not as tall and stands 50ft from the original museum. He compares the relationship between the buildings to that of “the great nephew to the great grand aunt”, says Hawley. Old and new buildings are linked by a glazed passage. The extension houses a 300-seat auditorium, a 2,000 sq. ft exhibition space, a café, conservation labs and staff offices. It also provides a new, larger entrance.
Building the extension has been controversial, not least because Gardner designed the carriage house, which was demolished in July 2009. The Boston Globe revealed in May 2009 that concerned members of staff felt Hawley was suppressing debate over the building’s historical significance. The newspaper cited an essay by former curatorial fellow Robert Colby, in which he describes how the carriage house held symbolic value for Gardner. Hawley responded to objectors by saying the carriage house was “never part of the visitor experience” and was not protected by Gardner’s will.
The carriage house had been used to accommodate visiting artists, a function catered for in Piano’s extension, which includes two artists’ apartments. The museum’s board of trustees unanimously voted for the demolition and the city and the state’s preservation agencies, including the Boston Landmarks Commission and the Massachusetts Historic Commission, did not object. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled the demolition “in the public interest” because the museum’s plans for an extension would “extend the life of the [original] building” and fulfil Gardner’s will to establish a museum “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever”.
“For the first time we will have a real exhibition space to focus on certain objects in our collection,” says Oliver Tostmann, the museum’s research fellow, who is due to become the collection’s curator in April. He plans to select one or two objects from the collection each year and show them alongside objects from other institutions in the new space. The opening exhibitions will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the museum’s artist-in-residence programme.
Gardner was able to build a museum for her growing art collection when she inherited $2.1m from her father in 1891. He made his wealth in the Irish linen trade and later in mining investments. Gardner’s peers—and rivals for work by Titian, Botticelli and Michelangelo—included the likes of JP Morgan, Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Mellon, or the “squillionaires”, as she called them. “I’ve got the picture habit. It’s as bad as the whisky habit,” she confessed in 1896.
This isn’t your grandma’s Gardner.
Boston’s beloved Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum reopens next week with a design update and double the size, thanks to a new 70,000-square-foot wing, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.
“You can keep the life and beauty there, but you can tell a new story,” said Piano, who sat for an -interview in the new wing’s Living Room.
The sleek addition, connected by what Piano calls an “umbilical cord,” is four stories of glass and copper, and even the fire escapes are aesthetically pleasing. The museum opens to the public Jan. 19, with three community days of free admission.
Restoration of the Palace
Since 1990, the Gardner Museum has completed significant restoration work on the historic palace building to stabilize its structure and help accommodate increased programming and attendance. Projects have included replacing the skylight over the courtyard with thermal pane glass and installing a climate-control system. Construction of the extension complements preservation work that is ongoing within the historic building, including a decade-long lighting project to protect sensitive artwork and improve the visitor experience.
A centerpiece of the Museum preservation project is the Tapestry Room, which has been restored to its original glory after being used for 85 years as a temporary concert hall. As the Museum’s world-class concerts will now take place in the new wing’s Calderwood Hall, the Tapestry Room has been returned to its former configuration to be experienced as a grand tapestry hall. Conservation treatment of the space included the cleaning of its Mercer-tiled floors, restoration of the French medieval stone fireplace, reinstallation of select art and furniture objects, replacement of historic textiles with reproductions, and new lighting.
Restoration of the Palace started in 1990, h.mmm, same time as the Gardner Art Heist ???
Of course we have been told from the get go the stolen artworks were not insured, h,mmmm ????
Then of course twenty years after the Gardner Art Heist $180 million is raised for this new extension, h,mmmm.
Again, of course we have been told the stolen Gardner artworks were not insured, h.mmmm ??????
The cost of the new extension is reputed to be around $118 million, h,mmmm, $62 million left in the pot, h,mmm.
Could the existing reward offer of $5 million for the recovery of ALL the stolen Gardner art "in good condition" be diverted from the left over $62 million to an escrow account and that news made public to tempt those who may hold the stolen Gardner art to come forward to collect the $5 million ?????
In light of the fact the $5 million reward offer was made all the way back in 1997 and the value of the stolen Gardner artworks have increased two three fold, increase the reward offer to $10 million and put it in an escrow account to show a sign of good faith and the willingness of the Gardner Museum to appear sincere ??????????? Would still leave $52 million in the pot.
In support of the doubling of the reward to $10 million and putting that into an escrow account, Could the FBI and Assistant DA Brian Kelly issue a complete immunity for those who recover the stolen Gardner Art and just focus on recovering the iconic Vermeer The Concert, Rembrandt's Storm On The Sea etc ???????
This would lead to the certain recovery of the Stolen Gardner Art and confirm the art is all that matters, as the public has been told numerous times by both Law Enforcement and the Gardner Museum.
Upon another note the Tapestry Room looks wonderful and bears testament to the legacy of Isabella Stewart Gardner.
However, the New Wing looks like "a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend" to quote Prince Charles.