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04/18/95

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Museum renovation, new wing construction to begin this fall

STANFORD -- A complete renovation of the earthquake- damaged Stanford University Museum of Art and the construction of a new 40,000-square-foot wing are scheduled to begin in October.

If the $31 million project remains on schedule, the museum will reopen in October 1997, with dedication ceremonies tentatively planned to coincide with Reunion Weekend, said Thomas K. Seligman, the John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the museum.

The new complex, including the museum and the Rodin Sculpture Garden, will be known as the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, in recognition of a $10 million gift the Cantors made in 1994.

When completed, the entire visual arts complex will emphasize teaching and research, and the new wing will include a special programs room that can be used for a variety of arts-related programs.

"Education in the arts always has been one of the primary missions for the museum, since it first opened in 1891," Seligman said. "But the facilities just weren't adequate for a variety of teaching opportunities.

"There was no place where we could present lectures or films, or other public programs such as music and dance," Seligman said. "Also, there was no place where community schools could have hands-on involvement in the museum, beyond visiting the galleries and working with the docents."

Stanford students and faculty will be able to use the special programs room to study firsthand works of art brought in from storage.

Improvements could attract new collections, exhibitions

Both the old museum and the new wing will be climate- controlled, which should enable Stanford to attract touring exhibitions and gifts it previously could not accommodate, Seligman said. Security improvements also will be made.

Another feature will be the designation of one small (350 square feet) gallery as a "flexible" room that can house works that are made available at the last minute.

"We schedule special exhibits years in advance," Seligman said. "We wanted to create some flexibility, so that the museum could be more responsive to the university."

This space could be used, he said, to show works by a visiting artist or displays of inventions from schools such as Engineering or Medicine, "devices that are interesting for their purpose, but also interesting to look at," Seligman said. "There are things that are bio- mechanical, like hip replacements, that are actually quite wonderful as sculpture " a number of artists have already seen that. Now we'll have a place where we can showcase new or unusual works, even if we didn't know about them the previous month."

Opportunity for inventory

Since the museum was damaged in the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, it has been closed except for a few office areas. During the closed period, the museum staff has taken a complete inventory of the collections " something that has not been done since 1917.

"There have been no significant revelations or surprises" during the inventory, Seligman said.

The entire staff and all the works of art that have been packed in the closed museum will move to Encina Gym later this spring or early this summer.

About 100 people " museum staff, interns, volunteers, the Committee for Art members, docents and others " will be affected. Relocating the objects and the people will be "a very complicated and time-consuming task," Seligman said. The old gymnasium needed quite a bit of work, including the installation of sprinkler systems, smoke detectors and other improvements.

"Still, it is considerably more cost effective for us to stay on campus relative to having gone off campus, and allows us to continue to use parts of the collection for teaching," he said.

During the construction period, the museum will continue to stage exhibits in the Art Gallery, which has been the case ever since the main museum was closed.

Rotundas to be reinforced

The creation of the arts complex became a reality last year with the Cantor gift, contributions from many other benefactors, and agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help defray costs of renovating the existing building.

Without the FEMA contribution of approximately $6 million, it is doubtful the twin rotundas of the old museum could have been saved. The rotundas, made of unreinforced brick, sustained major damage in the 1989 quake, and engineers estimated that a 5.0 magnitude quake would be sufficient to topple them both.

When completed, the reinforced south rotunda (nearest to the Rodin garden) will house Rodin sculptures, as it did before the quake. The north rotunda will exhibit art from the collection and facilitate circulation between the first- and second-floor galleries.

The entire old building, which is formally called the Leland Stanford Junior Museum, will be structurally upgraded, but the exterior will appear pretty much the same after the work is done. The lobby " with its marble walls, staircase and mosaic tile floor " and the gallery areas also will look much as they did before the quake, Seligman said.

Some modifications are planned to the interior walls of the museum, to make it easier to hang works of art. The skylights will remain, but some windows will be covered on the inside for more exact lighting control.

The new wing will include galleries for the display of contemporary art and special exhibitions, a cafe, bookshop, the special programs room, storage areas for large works and a conservation area.

The new wing has an elegant, modern design that complements the 1891 building. It features a full-length glass wall overlooking a courtyard between the two buildings. On the ground floor, looking out over the Rodin garden, will be the cafe, which will open onto a terrace with outside seating during warm weather.

Long-range plans also include the establishment of a contemporary sculpture garden on the north side of the complex.

Stanford invited 18 international architectural firms, selected on the basis of their experience working with museums as well as historic buildings, to submit proposals. Fourteen firms replied, and four finalists were chosen. The winning design came from the firm of (James Stewart) Polshek and Partners, which has offices in New York and San Francisco. The lead design architect is Richard Olcott.

Seligman, President Gerhard Casper, University Architect David Neuman, members of the Board of Trustees and other faculty and staff members were involved in the selection process.

Planning ahead

Museum curators already are planning for the special exhibitions, permanent collection installations and related educational programs for the re-opening. New staff members have been hired, including Patience Young as the museum's first curator of education (see Campus Report, April 12).

Once the museum is reopened, admission will remain free. However, fees may be charged for certain traveling exhibitions.

Mona Duggan, the museum's external relations officer, said new projects being developed for the first two years of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts include a special exhibition of contemporary art from the collections of Stanford alumni and friends; an exhibition on the theme of early California art, adapted from the dissertation of former Stanford doctoral student Claire Perry, who will act as guest curator; and an exhibition documenting the architectural process of the rebuilding project.

Of the $31 million total cost of the project, about $27.2 million has been secured. The museum continues to solicit gifts for the remainder, as well as for a $10 million endowment for museum programs. About $1.75 million in gifts for the endowment has been received.

With the recent opening of the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art building, and the collaboration between the San Jose Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, there has been renewed interest in the visual arts in the Bay Area, Seligman said.

"With a renewed commitment to its teaching mission, a growing important permanent collection, and renovated and expanded facilities, the museum will have an opportunity to take on a special role in this wider picture," he said. There will be a focus on scholarship and teaching, on collaboration with university departments, and on the utilization of the knowledge and creativity of faculty and students.

The new visual arts complex, Seligman said, "will add an important dimension to the university's recruitment efforts to attract students who will become the arts professionals of the future."

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