Major Work on Renovation and Expansion Complete; Opening Date Set for December 12, 2012

Yale University Art Gallery (l to r: Louis Kahn building, Old Yale Art Gallery building, Street Hall). © Christopher Gardner, 2012
Old Yale Art Gallery building, view of the restored Yellin Gates
Old Yale Art Gallery building, view of the Margaret and Angus Wurtele Sculpture

Expansion of both building and collections places Gallery in ranks of nation’s leading public museums

The Yale University Art Gallery, in New Haven, Connecticut, has completed major work on its renovation and expansion and commenced installation of the museum’s esteemed collections. The revitalized Gallery will open to the public on December 12, 2012. The expansion project, which has been accompanied by parallel growth in the museum’s holdings, will transform the visitor experience, enabling the Gallery not only to enhance its role as one of the nation’s most prominent teaching institutions, but also to join the ranks of the country’s leading public art museums.

The expansion and renovation have been designed and led by Duncan Hazard and Richard Olcott, partners in the New York City-based Ennead Architects. Mr. Hazard is also the lead architectural planner for the University’s Master Plan for the Yale Arts Area, of which the Gallery renovation is a key element.

The Gallery’s $135 million* project has increased the space occupied by the museum from one-and-a-half buildings—the 1953 modernist structure designed by Louis Kahn and approximately half of the 1928 “Old Yale Art Gallery,” designed by Egerton Swartwout—to three, encompassing the Kahn building, the entire Old Art Gallery, and the contiguous 1866 Street Hall, designed by Peter Bonnett Wight (and home to the Gallery from 1867 to 1928). The project has united the three buildings into a cohesive whole while maintaining the distinctive architectural identity of each.

The Gallery now contains 69,975 square feet of exhibition space, compared to 40,266 square feet prior to the expansion, and occupies the length of one-and-a-half city blocks. With new areas for exhibitions and object study, combined with a comprehensive plan for public and educational programming, the expansion enables vastly increased access to the Gallery’s encyclopedic collections.

Jock Reynolds, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, states, “It has been thrilling to watch the renovation of the Gallery unfold, as splendid new spaces are created and old ones restored to their original beauty, long-obscured views and sightlines are recovered, and architectural details recaptured. The buildings will truly come to life as we begin installation of the artworks, when new acquisitions will join longtime favorites, and the collections will be seen in a new light, both literally and figuratively. Ennead Architects’ superb design has been undertaken with great sensitivity to the architecture, the collections, and the distinguished history of the Gallery. And, of course, none of this would have been possible without the visionary leadership of Yale President Richard C. Levin and the Gallery’s supremely supportive Board of Governors.”

Expansion Project

Planning for the renovation of the Gallery began in 1998, and the first phase of construction—restoration of the landmark Kahn building—commenced in 2003. Completed in December 2006, this returned the building, which is widely considered to be the architect’s first masterpiece, to its original purity and integrity, while introducing up-to-date building systems.

The current phase of work has entailed the renovation and restoration of both the neo-Florentine Gothic Old Art Gallery and the Ruskinian Gothic Street Hall, which was most recently occupied by the University’s art history department. This encompassed restoration of the interiors of Street Hall—including the preservation and reuse of historic architectural elements and finishes—as well as of the masonry façades of both of the older buildings. To ensure that the reconfigured Gallery provides both an up-to-date environment for art and a seamless visitor experience, the architects also introduced a new stairway and elevator to unify circulation patterns into a logical flow, upgraded the mechanical systems, and enhanced the thermal performance of the exterior walls, among numerous other improvements.

In addition to the work on the existing buildings, the architects added a rooftop structure that provides a suite of new temporary-exhibition galleries. Clad in zinc and glass, this addition is set back from the perimeter of the roof, creating space for a sculpture terrace.

Collection Installation

The expanded Gallery will be able to present a vastly larger portion of its collections than heretofore possible. (For example, the current installation of European art displays some 135 works, while the new galleries will feature about 350.) Moreover, visitors will also see a great number of objects that have never before been shown at the Gallery. This will include a first-ever display of Indo-Pacific art, comprising tribal sculptures from Southeast Asia and textiles from Indonesia, which will establish the Yale University Art Gallery as one of the country’s leaders in this field. An extensive new presentation of coins and medals has been enabled by the transfer of the University’s Numismatics Collection to the Gallery from Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library. A rare group of late nineteenth-century lunettes and ceiling murals—donated to the Gallery after they were removed from the Collis Huntington mansion on Fifth Avenue when it was demolished in 1926—have been restored and will be on view for the first time.

In addition to new displays, recently acquired objects from all collection areas—ranging from Japanese screens, to African antiquities, to Roman portraits, to nineteenth-century American paintings, to contemporary sculptures, among many other examples—will be on view throughout the Gallery, enriching its presentation of world art.

Throughout the expansion project, Gallery curators and the architects collaborated in an effort to ensure that the new galleries meet the needs of the art that they will house. Thus, the display of ancient art, which will be installed in one of the first exhibition spaces seen by visitors after entering the building, will include a separate room devoted to the Gallery’s important and renowned collection of artifacts from the ancient city of Dura-Europos, in present-day Syria. The galleries for modern and contemporary art have sixteen-foot ceilings and vast interiors to allow for large-scale works, while European art will occupy a series of more intimate galleries. Although the pattern of circulation through the galleries will be uninterrupted, visitors will encounter a number of spaces designed for quiet contemplation.

Education Resources

The new Gallery includes not only eight classrooms, greatly enhancing the ability of professors across disciplines to teach from the collection, but also a major new resource for teaching and learning: the Nolen Center for Art and Education. This nearly 5,000-square-foot facility on the ground floor of Street Hall will enable the Gallery to offer greatly expanded education programs. Dedicated to serving both Yale students and local residents and visitors, the Nolen Center includes two seminar rooms and a library.


The Yale University Art Gallery renovation and expansion has been fully financed by gifts from individuals and foundations. The total cost of the project, including the Kahn building, the Old Yale Art Gallery, and Street Hall, is $135 million, with the earliest pledges made in 1998, and the most recent gift committed in December 2011. In keeping with Yale’s policy, all gifts and pledges for construction were secured prior to breaking ground in October 2009 for phase II of the project. Gifts and pledges for the reinstallation of the collections continue to be made to the Gallery. To date, lead gifts have come from the late Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933; Thomas Jaffe, B.A. 1971; Jane and Richard Manoogian, B.A. 1961; Jan Perry Mayer and her late husband, former Gallery Governing Board chairman Frederick Mayer, B.A. 1950; Eliot and Wilson Nolen, B.A. 1948; Eliot Nolen, B.A. 1984, and Timothy Bradley, B.A. 1983; Mary Jo and Ted Shen, B.A. 1966; Stephen D. Susman, B.A. 1962; Sharon and Thurston Twigg-Smith, B.E. 1942; Lulu C. and Anthony C. Wang, B.A. 1965; and Margaret and C. Angus Wurtele, B.A. 1956. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded the Gallery a 2011 grant for reinstallation of its ancient art galleries.

Yale University Art Gallery

The Yale University Art Gallery—the oldest and one of the most important university art museums in America—was founded in 1832, when patriot-artist John Trumbull donated more than 100 paintings to Yale College and designed a gallery to house them. Since then, the Gallery’s collections have grown to number more than 200,000 objects from around the world, ranging in date from ancient times to the present day (see “Collections Overview”). Among these holdings are the celebrated collections of American paintings and decorative arts; outstanding collections of Greek and Roman art, including the artifacts excavated at Dura-Europos; the Jarves, Griggs, and Rabinowitz collections of early Italian paintings; masterpieces of European art, including works by Hans Holbein, Frans Hals, Peter Paul Rubens, Eugène Delacroix, Édouard Manet, and Vincent van Gogh; Asian art; African art from diverse cultures, including a stellar group of nearly 600 objects donated to the Gallery by the late Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, and around 200 African antiquities from the SusAnna and Joel Grae collection; sculptures and textiles from the new Department of Indo-Pacific art; art of the ancient Americas; the Société Anonyme Collection of early twentieth-century European and American art; and a growing collection of modern and contemporary works.

The encyclopedic collections provide an invaluable resource for the national and international world of artists, art enthusiasts, scholars, and museum professionals. They are used not only to educate Yale students in all subject areas, but also to inspire and increase understanding of great works of art among the wider public, from schoolchildren to adults.

The Gallery has remained open throughout its fourteen-year renovation project, and since 2006 it has continued to present an active program of special exhibitions and permanent-collection installations in the Kahn building. As part of the museum’s efforts to share its collections with a broader public, it has also organized traveling exhibitions, which are presented at museums across the country. These have most recently included an exhibition drawn from the Gallery’s holdings of objects from Dura-Europos; Robert Adams: The Place We Live, A Retrospective Selection of Photographs, spanning the American photographer’s forty-five-year career; Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective, a twenty-five-year installation of work from the Gallery’s collection at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and organized by the Gallery, MASS MoCA, and the Williams College Museum of Art; and Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, drawn from the Gallery’s exceptional collection founded by Katherine S. Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray. The latter will be the inaugural special exhibition in the renovated Gallery.

University’s Master Plan for the Yale Arts Area

The Gallery’s renovation and expansion project is an important element of Yale University’s Master Plan for the Yale Arts Area, developed in the mid 1990s to facilitate the preservation of important historic buildings while improving and expanding arts facilities. The ambitious Master Plan is intended to benefit not only the University community, but also the people of New Haven and visitors from across the nation and around the world.