Saint Louis Art Museum Announces Expansion Plans

The Saint Louis Art Museum has announced that it is proceeding with its ambitious $130.5 million expansion project, following a one-year delay. Once begun, construction is anticipated to take approximately two years. The Museum will remain open to the public during construction of the new David Chipperfield-designed addition.

“The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of our region’s most valuable cultural assets,” said John D. Weil, president of the Museum’s Board of Commissioners. “This expansion is our generation’s contribution to the future of this great St. Louis institution.”

The more than 200,000-square-foot addition will provide new galleries, public space, and a 300-space, below-grade parking garage, as well as a new, fully accessible entrance on Fine Arts Drive.

Chipperfield’s design calls for an addition to the east and south of the original 1904 building with a dark, polished concrete façade, featuring skylights and a number of floor-to-ceiling windows to invite and provide views from both inside and outside.

As part of the project, the historic Cass Gilbert building will be improved. More than 13,000 square feet of space will be renovated for permanent collection galleries, education, classroom, and public use. A dedicated school and group tour entrance will be located to the south of the Museum.

The overall expansion represents a 30 percent increase in the Museum’s gallery and public space, and will more than double its current parking capacity.

“Over the past 125 years, strategic acquisitions by the Museum and magnificent gifts from local benefactors have created a collection that places the Museum among the top 10 comprehensive art museums in the country,” said Museum Director Brent R. Benjamin. “David Chipperfield’s design pays thoughtful and elegant homage to Cass Gilbert while creating gracious new spaces to house the Museum’s extraordinary holdings.”

In early November 2008, the Museum’s Board of Commissioners voted to delay the project’s start date, originally intended for late 2008, in response to economic conditions. Now, just over a year later, the Board’s decision to move forward was based on stable and favorable market conditions, successful contract negotiations, and continued leadership support for the capital campaign.

Since launching the campaign for the Saint Louis Art Museum in 2004, the Museum has received commitments of over $135 million, including 100 percent support from the Museum’s Board of Commissioners and 86 percent of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. The success of the capital campaign’s leadership phase has allowed the Museum to set a formal goal of $145 million for the public phase.

“We are able to move forward with the project as the result of extraordinary leadership and tremendous generosity,” Benjamin said. “As the Campaign expands to include our entire family of Museum Members and the St. Louis community, we invite many more to join in this historic effort to ensure the Museum will continue to be among our nation’s finest.”

The $130.5 million project, along with a supporting endowment of $31.5 million, is being underwritten by private philanthropy, foundation support and proceeds from the sale of tax exempt bonds. While tax proceeds continue to provide critical annual support for the Museum’s operations, no tax funds will be used for the expansion.

Tarlton/Pepper/KAI, through a joint venture, has been selected as the general contractor for the expansion. The Museum will host a groundbreaking celebration on January 19, 2010, although preparation work will begin immediately.

“This project will strengthen the existing Museum, clarify the use of space, and create a new architectural whole that encompasses both old and new within the Art Museum’s extraordinary setting in Forest Park,” said Chipperfield. “We sought not only to maintain its Sculpture Hall as the symbolic heart of the Museum but to create a strong relationship between landscape and architecture.”

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