National Gallery of Art’s East Building Reopens After Three-Year, $69 Million Renovation

After 40 years, it was time for a face–lift.

After a three-year, $69 million refurbishment and expansion, the East Building of Washington DC’s National Gallery of Arts finally reopens today.

The I.M. Pei-designed building now has an additional 12,250 square feet of floor space spread across two new galleries and a new rooftop terrace. The northwest tower gallery will house works by Alexander Calder, and the northeast tower gallery will show a rotating selection of the museums collection of Mark Rothko paintings.

Meanwhile, Katharina Frithsch’s monumental blue cockerel sculpture will grace the rooftop terrace. The terrace also includes trees, plants, and stunning views of the city, the Washington Business Journal reported.

The East Building also has a new stairway and elevator, which has been installed to connect the different levels of the museum. The flooring has also been replaced.

The National Gallery of Art's I.M. Pei designed East Building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The National Gallery of Art’s I.M. Pei designed East Building. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

According to the Washington Post, the building—which dates to 1978—was in need of upgrades and improved infrastructure after 40 years of use. Moreover, additional space was required to allow curators to show a greater portion of the museum’s expanding collection.

“We knew we needed to find something that would work within the Pei vocabulary,” Mary Katherine Lanzillotta, partner at Hartman-Cox Architects, winner of the renovation contract, told the Washington Post. Staying true to the legendary architect’s triangular interlocking design was a challenge that required sourcing original materials to recreate the structure’s lines.

Of the total $69 million raised, $39 million came from federal funding and $30 million from the private donations of local philanthropists. “The gift to our nation by these generous donors will enable us to exhibit more art from our ever-growing modern collection in spaces that will be at once spacious, airy, and contemplative,” gallery director Earl Powell said in a statement.

The National Gallery announced on its website that it will celebrate the reopening of the East Building with a series of lectures and talks by Leonardo Drew, Jennie C. Jones, Thomas Struth, and others.

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