A museum renovation project designed by internationally celebrated architect Frank Gehry that has been in the works for two decades will be unveiled to the public next month.

The renovated Philadelphia Museum of Art will formally open for public viewing on 7th May 2021, marking the culmination of a long process that began in 2000 with the acquisition of the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, followed by the approval of the Facilities Master Plan in 2004 and the appointment of Gehry in 2006 to design, renovate and renew the museum’s landmark main building.

Gehry’s Master Plan for the museum was put on public display in 2014, and the ground-breaking for the ‘Core Project’ as it’s called was performed in 2017. During the four years of construction, a new cafe and restaurant were added in 2018 and the historic North Entrance was opened in September 2019, unveiling a new North Lobby, education studios, a main store, espresso bar, and a restored section of the museum’s distinctive Vaulted Walkway.

The completion of the Gehry-led renovation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art represents a major milestone in the restoration, reorganisation and interior expansion of the museum’s landmark 1928 building. The Core Project, representing the first phase of the Facilities Master Plan, focused on the renewal of the museum’s infrastructure by opening up the very heart of the main building.

Additionally, spaces that once accommodated offices, the museum’s restaurant and retail operation have been repurposed into two new suites of galleries offering 20,000 square feet of exhibition space. The Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Galleries will present a broader and more inclusive narrative of the development of early American art centred on the prominent role played by Philadelphia in this story, while the Daniel W. Dietrich II Galleries will focus on the creative spirit of Philadelphia today through an exhibition of the works of 25 contemporary artists with ties to the city.

To celebrate the completion of the Core Project, the museum will welcome visitors on a special pay-what-you-wish basis, starting Friday, May 7, through Monday, May 10, the historic date when the museum first opened to the public in 1877.

In addition, Senga Nengudi: Topologies, the first major special exhibition to be presented in the museum in more than a year, will be on view in the Dorrance Galleries, and the Rodin Museum will reopen to the public for the first time since March 2020, the Philadelphia Museum of Art announced.

The scope of work has fully preserved the building’s temple-like exterior and picturesque setting. The building’s original architectural language and materials have been honoured, which can be observed in the use of the same golden-hued Kasota limestone, sourced from the same quarries in a small town in southern Minnesota that supplied it for the construction of the 1928 building.

“The goal in all of our work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been to let the museum guide our hand. The brilliant architects who came before us created a strong and intelligent design that we have tried to respect, and in some cases accentuate. Our overarching goal has been to create spaces for art and for people,” Gehry noted.

Images: Philadelphia Museum of Art