Philadelphia Museum of Art Aims to Raise $525 Million for Frank Gehry-Designed Expansion

A rendering of the renovated west entrance at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, now currently used as a loading dock. Courtesy of Frank Gehry.
A rendering of the renovated west entrance at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, now currently used as a loading dock. Courtesy of Frank Gehry.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art officially breaks ground today, March 30, on its new Frank Gehry–designed expansion, the cornerstone of its $196-million Core Project, part of a comprehensive 20-year master plan. The museum has announced a fundraising effort to complete a $525-million campaign in support of the expansion as well as other technological, educational, public programming, and community access initiatives.

Gehry was first brought on board for the ambitious project way back in 2006. “I walked through the building and I saw that all you had to do was follow the yellow brick road, so to speak,” he said in a statement, recalling his first impression of the main building. “It was all there, and it showed you what you could do.”

The Pritzker Prize–winning architect will expand the encyclopedic museum by excavating under its east terrace, creating new galleries for contemporary art and special exhibitions while staying true to the spirit of the landmark Neoclassical building—the plan doesn’t include Gehry’s trademark curved metallic forms.

When the Core Project is complete, there will be 90,000 square feet opened up to visitors, including 67,000 square feet of new public space and 23,000 square feet of new gallery space—11,500 square feet for American art and 11,500 square feet for contemporary. When the full Master Plan is complete, a cumulative 169,000 square feet of space will be added to the 90-year-old building, which houses 240,000 works of art.

A rendering of the new Forum space at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Courtesy of Frank Gehry.

A rendering of the new Forum space at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Courtesy of Frank Gehry.

There will also be a new education center, a restaurant and cafeteria, a visitors’ center, and a larger auditorium and gift shop. The auditorium below Lenfest Hall is being demolished to create a central two-story open space called the Forum. The entryway at Kelly Drive, which features a 500-foot-long arcaded hallway, which has for decades served as a loading dock, will once again be open to the public.

“It’s an extraordinary design and one that both respects the building, but makes it ready for the next 100 years,” director Timothy Rub told the local ABC affiliate.

A rendering of the new Forum space at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Courtesy of Frank Gehry.

A rendering of the new Forum space at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Courtesy of Frank Gehry.

It’s all part of a ten-year plan that looks to revitalize the institution ahead of its centenary celebrations—the museum will turn 100 in 2028. Should all go according to plan, construction will be completed much earlier, in the spring of 2020. The museum will remain open for the duration of the project.

The fundraising campaign has brought in $326 million, more than 62 percent of the goal. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced that the city has pledged $32.5 million over the next five years.

A hallway at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that will be an entryway under the redesign. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A vaulted walkway at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that will be an entryway from Kelley Drive under the redesign. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

”Great cities have great art museums. This was the principle that drove the civic leaders of the early 20th century to construct … the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf in a statement. “The museum continues to play a critical role in the vibrancy of this great city.”


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