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Johnson Museum's 16,000-square-foot wing opens Oct. 15

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art will celebrate the opening of its new wing Saturday, Oct. 15, from 1 to 5 p.m. The public reception features new exhibitions, tours of the 16,000-square-foot addition, family art activities (1-3 p.m.) and live music by the Sim Redmond Band (3-5 p.m.). All events are free.

The wing, on the north side of the museum, is constructed of glass and concrete (the latter mixed to match the color of the museum's façade), and its landscaping includes a new Japanese garden representing the subject of a 17th-century scroll in the museum's collection.

With three stories above and below ground, the wing is based in part on I.M. Pei's original plan for the museum, which included an underground extension to the north that was never built. The wing includes staff offices and new exhibition and program spaces, and will double the previous storage capacity for collections.

"We not only went back to that basic idea, but thought of it as a way to meet our current needs," said chief curator Ellen Avril during a recent tour.

The wing was designed by the museum's original architect in charge, John L. Sullivan III '62, B.Arch. '63, of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

The wing connects to the existing building at the lowest level. It features a 150-seat lecture room that can be partitioned into two smaller spaces. New educational facilities include a docent library and workshop studio. The Japanese garden on the west side of the wing, designed by landscape architect Marc Peter Keane '79, is the gift of Rebecca and Jim Morgan, both Class of 1960.

The first exhibition in the new wing is "Bursts of Light and Rifts of Darkness: American Expressionism from the Meinig Collection," on display through Dec. 31 with paintings and drawings by Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still, five of the central figures of abstract expressionism. The works on display are from the private collection of Nancy and Peter Meinig.

The wing expansion also made possible recent renovations to the museum's original 61,000-square-foot building, which opened in 1973.

The fifth-floor Asian art galleries have been expanded to include 50 percent more space and more than 400 objects; and a former lecture room now houses viewable open storage of more than 1,000 objects of African, pre-Columbian, Asian and decorative arts in glass cases. The museum also is creating a study and storage space for photography, funded by Rona Hollander Citrin '80 and Jeffery Citrin.

"The mission of the new wing is to serve the collection and the public by inviting our visitors to use more of the collection more intimately and in new ways," said Frank Robinson, the former Richard J. Schwartz Director of the museum, who retired in June after 19 years. His successor, Stephanie Wiles, will be on campus Oct. 14-15 for the opening.

"This museum addition is the fruit of many people's labors," said Ira Drukier '66, chair of the museum's advisory council. "Led by Frank Robinson, our outgoing -- in every way -- director, and supported by a fabulous staff and a large group of friends, this addition will better allow Cornell to continue to serve our students and the entire Ithaca community. We all look to the future with excitement."

The $22 million project was funded by private gifts and government and foundation grants, including funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kresge Foundation of Michigan and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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