Harvard Museums, Doubled in Size, Will Open Next Fall


The Harvard Art Museums, renovated and expanded by architect Renzo Piano, will reopen in the fall of 2014 after a renovation that has been ongoing since 2008. For the first time, the Cambridge, Mass., university’s three museums-the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger and the Arthur M. Sackler-will occupy the same structure.

An initial goal of $250 million to support the project has been more than 90 percent fulfilled, according to a press release, with $230 million raised from various sources supporting the costs of expansion and bolstering the endowment. The expansion adds 100,000 square feet of new space, bringing the total to 204,000. More than 12,000 square feet of the addition represent new exhibition space.

Harvard’s closing comes shortly after another New England university museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, opened following a renovation that also united three buildings.

The plan for expansion initially included a new museum of modern and contemporary art, which has been indefinitely put on hold. Harvard lost a key hire in 2010 when curator Helen Molesworth, who had been hired to develop the new venue, bailed out after just three years and went to the Boston Institute for Contemporary Art as chief curator.

The three Harvard museums focus on distinct collections, with the Fogg devoted to Western art from the Middle Ages to the present, the Busch-Reisinger focused on central and northern Europe, especially the German-speaking countries, and the Sackler dedicated to Asian, ancient, and Islamic and later Indian art.

The Sackler Museum building, the one museum that has remained open since 2008, will close on June 1 until the reopening, leaving the university without the museum for over a year. In total, the museums’ holdings encompass over 250,000 objects, spanning ancient times to the present. Most of the collection is available for viewing at the museum’s website.

Among the notable aspects of the renovation will be the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical studies, the first of its kind in the U.S., according to a press release, offering fine art conservation, research and training. Also included is a new 300-seat theater.