In anticipation of Milwaukee Art Museum reopening the Collection Galleries later this month, the museum held a media and photographer preview day on Friday, November 13. Six years in the making, the $34 million renovation completely transforms placement of artwork and wayfinding through exhibits. It adds a 16,000 square foot addition, spread over two floors, to the east end of the building, re-creating a lakeside entrance that was lost in a previous renovation. The Collection Galleries are set to reopen to the public on November 24.
During the media preview, Dan Keegan, Director of the Milwaukee Art Museum stated, “We wanted to fundamentally change the experience with the art. Frankly, we wanted to match the beauty of the Calatrava addition with how we present the art itself. We knew we had to reconnect the campus and the visitor experience to the lakefront.” The Calatrava addition refers to the 2001 Quadracci Pavilion created by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, a work of art in itself.
The building renovation has been created with a west-to-east flow, with easy view from one end to the other, allowing easier visitor orientation throughout the building. Large works of art at the ends of the corridors tell visitors what kind of art they will experience in that area, decreasing the need for signage.
In addition to the east-west flow, 30,000 works of art have been rearranged during the renovation, with a dramatic change in the presentation. Older art is presented on walls painted rich colors, while newer art is displayed in bright white cube space. Floors that had darkened over the years have been refinished and ceilings have been painted white, creating more ambient lighting.
A new gallery, the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts, is installed in 10,000 square feet of space on the lower level. The mezzanine, which previously wasn’t used as display space, now showcases folk, self-taught and outsider art.
Natural light from the floor-to-ceiling glass walls of the new addition at the east end of the building brighten the visitor experience. The upper floor of the new space will be home to a sculpture gallery and seating for visitors to sit and enjoy both the space and views of the lakefront. The lower level will include a lakeside entrance to the museum, as well as a coffee shop or wine bar.
Several special events are scheduled in celebration of Milwaukee Art Museum’s Collection Galleries reopening, including a members only preview on November 20; 50 percent off membership November 21-22; ribbon cutting and public grand opening November 24; Meijer Free First Thursday December 3; and Kohl’s Community Free Day December 6.
The Milwaukee Art Museum, less than two hours north of Chicago, is located 700 N Art Museum Drive. Check the web site for hours and other details.