The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art—America’s oldest public art museum—has been undergoing a major renovation since 2010 that is slated to be complete in 2015. The $33 million project has renewed the museum’s historic structures and has added 17 new galleries—nearly 16,000 square feet of exhibition space—to the building’s existing footprint for an improved visitor experience.
The museum is open during the final phase of renovation, and though some galleries may be unavailable, many favorite works are on view. A selection of European old masters, Impressionist painters, and Contemporary artists are featured in Heaven and Earth: Masterworks from the Permanent Collection. Also available are examples from the museum’s collections of Hudson River School paintings, Colt firearms, Wallace Nutting furniture, American art from the colonial period to the mid-20th century, Surrealism, and the acclaimed MATRIX exhibition program.
2015 will be a seminal moment in the museum’s storied 173-year legacy. Major exhibition openings and unveilings of newly refurbished collection galleries will dazzle patrons while new interpretive content and interactive technology will encourage deeper engagement with artwork. Once all spaces are revealed, it will be the first time in nearly 50 years that all galleries are simultaneously open to the public.
On January 31, 2015 the Wadsworth Atheneum will unveil its beautifully reappointed Contemporary Art Galleries, sleek and modern spaces showcasing powerful works by the likes of Nick Cave, Sol LeWitt, Martin Puryear, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, and Andy Warhol, and presenting newly acquired works by artists like James Nares, Tony Smith, and Kara Walker.
Sharing the spotlight January 31, 2015 will be the inaugural exhibition in the restored special exhibition galleries, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861 – 2008—the first exhibition to use visual art as a lens to address the magnetic lure Coney Island exerted on the American public over 150 years. Coney Island will travel to the San Diego Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the McNay Art Museum.
2015 will also bring the 40th anniversary celebration of the Wadsworth Atheneum’s groundbreaking MATRIX exhibition program—a forum that has shown over 1,000 works of art by more than 160 burgeoning artists since its inception, including Jon Borofsky, Chuck Close, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Robert Mapplethorpe, Gerhard Richter, Nancy Spero, Richard Tuttle, Carrie Mae Weems, and Andy Warhol.
September 19, 2015 will be the grand finale of the museum’s renewal project—the public unveiling and centennial celebration of the stunning Beaux-Arts Morgan Memorial Building, which was built by financier J. Pierpont Morgan in honor of his father Junius. The Morgan Memorial Building will boast the first complete reinstallation of the European Art Collection in over 20 years, showcasing over one thousand world-class works of European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts. A centerpiece of this presentation will be the museum’s new treasure, Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as a Lute Player (1616 – 18), on view to the public for the first time. An immersive Cabinet of Art and Curiosities will feature remarkable 17th-century objects, many assembled by Morgan himself, combined with natural history specimens and other rarities.
And opening October 17, 2015 is Warhol & Mapplethorpe: Guise & Dolls. Focusing on New York in the 1970s and early 80s, Guise & Dolls will explore the vibrant and tumultuous era of change through the work of Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe, both of whom created significant bodies of work in self-portraiture, in which particular disguises, characters and ambiguous personalities are evoked. The first dual museum exhibition to feature these two visionary artists, Guise & Dolls will include the artists’ portraits of each other, self-portraits and a selection of iconic portraits of sitters that address role-playing and gender roles of masculinity, femininity and androgyny.
Throughout the renovation the Wadsworth Atheneum continues to offer innovative and educational programs to the public. Join the after-work crowd at First Thursdays or explore art with your children and family at Second Saturdays. View a film in the historic Aetna Theater or tag along on one of our daily tours. To stay up to date with museum happenings, view our calendar, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up to receive Instant Atheneum, the museum’s e-newsletter.
If you are preparing to visit the museum during the renovation and hope to see a specific work of art, please call ahead to confirm it is on view. The Information Desk is happy to take your call Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30 am – 4:30 pm at (860) 838-4100.
During renovations get a free exhibition catalogue when you spend $40 in the Museum Shop, in store or online!