Grand Reopening


Grand Reopening
September 19, 2015

On September 19, 2015, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art completed a 5-year, $33 million renovation, renewing 32 galleries and 15 public spaces to improve the visitor experience.

Post-War and Contemporary Art

The unveiling began when the museum’s Contemporary Art collection—featuring work from 1945 to the present—opened on January 31, 2015 in three strikingly refurbished and reinstalled dedicated galleries.

The year 2015 also marked the 40th anniversary of the museum’s MATRIX series of contemporary art exhibitions. To celebrate this momentous occasion the reinstallation focused especially on works by MATRIX artists.

Huntington Gallery includes mid-century abstract painting and sculpture by artists including Ellsworth Kelly (MATRIX 1) and Willem de Kooning (MATRIX 15), along with Alexander Calder, Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Tony Smith.

Hilles Gallery features much loved masterworks by Duane Hanson (MATRIX 40), Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman (MATRIX 88), Bob Thompson (MATRIX 90), and Andy Warhol (MATRIX 50). New, large-scale gifts and acquisitions include important pieces by Chuck Close (MATRIX 35), George Segal, Kiki Smith, Richard Tuttle (MATRIX 10), and Kara Walker. A permanent video gallery currently features Allison Schulnik’s (MATRIX 168) Eager.

The newly reopened mezzanine gallery of the Colt building presents a wall drawing by international artist and Hartford native Sol LeWitt (MATRIX 3, MATRIX 6, and MATRIX 143). The first wall drawing to enter the museum’s collection, it was long off-view to visitors. The space also includes a selection of LeWitt sculptures from the collection.

An expanded special exhibition space also opened in 2015, then featuring Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008—the first exhibition to use visual art as a lens to explore the lure that Coney Island exerted on American culture over a period of 150 years.

European Art and Decorative Arts

September 2015 marked the reveal of the beautiful Beaux-Arts Morgan Memorial Building, restored to its historic splendor and boasting the first complete reinstallation of the European Art collection in a generation. The renovated Morgan Building now showcases over 1,000 works of European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts. Highlights are numerous, and include Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as a Lute Player, on view for the first time since it was acquired by the Wadsworth Atheneum in 2014.

Filling one entire gallery, an immersive Cabinet of Art and Curiosity features more than 200 remarkable 17th century objects, many assembled by the great collector J. Pierpont Morgan, combined with natural history specimens and other rarities. Guests eager to delve deep can use the cabinet’s Field Guide, a mobile tour, or the gallery’s digital touch screens to find detailed information about each fascinating object. Visitors can even use the touch screens to create their own virtual Cabinet of Art and Curiosity in an educational, interactive game.

James Welling Artwork

To commemorate this momentous occasion, renowned artist and Hartford native James Welling created a series of composite photographs celebrating the history of the Wadsworth Atheneum. Pictured on this page is Welling’s depiction of Morgan Great Hall, the museum’s soaring picture gallery that now features a salon-style hanging of 95 works from the European Art collection.

James Welling "Morgan Great Hall," 2015, inkjet print, courtest of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London
James Welling, Morgan Great Hall, 2015, Inkjet print, Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London


Learn more about the museum’s buildings and history.


Grand Reopening Press Highlights

Antiques and the Arts Weekly, Nov. 10, 2015, Q&A: Linda Roth
WSFB/Better Connecticut, Nov. 9, 2015, Get Some Art History at this Local Stop by Kara Sundlun
The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13, At the Wadsworth Atheneum, an Old Building Gets New Life by Lee Rosenbaum
The Economist, Oct. 1, Temple of Delight by Miles Unger
Hartford Courant, Oct. 1, Renewed Atheneum a Cultural Tourism Spark Op-Ed by William Hosley
The Boston Globe, Sept. 19, European marvels await in Hartford at refurbished Atheneum by Sebastian Smee
The Hartford Courant, Sept. 19, Wadsworth Atheneum Reopens To Line Of Visitors Saturday by Kristin Stoller
The Hartford Courant, Sept. 19, Editorial: Wadsworth Atheneum Makeover is a Triumph
Hyperallergic, Sept. 18, 2015, A Worthy Renovation for the Wadsworth Atheneum’s European Art Galleries by Benjamin Sutton
The New York Times, Sept. 17, 2015, Review: Wadsworth Atheneum, a Masterpiece of Renovation by Roberta Smith
WNPR, Sept. 17, 2015, Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Unveils Newly Renovated Galleries by Diane Orson
The Art Newspaper, Sept. 16, 2015, Wadsworth relives Gilded Age glory days in grand reopening by Julia Halperin
Hartford Courant, Sept. 13, 2015, Wadsworth Atheneum Unveils Final Phase of Years-Long Renovation by Susan Dunne
Fox CT, Sept. 11, 2015, The art of a reopening at the Wadsworth by Jim Altman
Apollo Magazine, Sept. 5, 2015, J.P. Morgan: The Man Who Bought the World by Rachel Cohen
The New York Times, Aug. 31, 2015, The Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford Puts Final Touches on a Comeback by Ted Loos
The Art Newspaper, September 2015, Wadsworth relives Gilded Age glory days in grand reopening by Julia Halperin
Observer, June 16, A Peek Inside Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum as It Preps for a Grand Reopening by Alanna Martinez