Renwick Gallery Reopening After Two Year Reno on Friday

1Renwick Photo by Joshua Yetman
Photo courtesy Renwick by Joshua Yetman

From a press release:

“The Renwick Gallery, home to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s craft and decorative arts program, will open to the public Friday, Nov. 13, following a comprehensive two-year renovation. The museum, located across from the White House at the corner of 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., in downtown Washington, D.C., will open with an updated interior aesthetic, carefully restored historic features and significantly upgraded, state-of-the-art infrastructure. The inaugural exhibition, titled “WONDER,” will feature gallery-sized installations by nine major contemporary artists, renewing the commitment inscribed in stone above the front door, “Dedicated to Art.” The opening will be accompanied by a celebratory weekend of public programs and three special publications.

“The Renwick Gallery is the first purpose-built art museum in America and an architectural masterpiece,” said Betsy Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “The original legislation states that the building is intended to ‘encourage American genius’ and the words ‘Dedicated to Art’ are prominently inscribed above the entrance. We are delighted to renew that commitment through this renovation, which will allow us to continue showcasing the best and most innovative American art for the next half-century.”

This project marks the first comprehensive renovation to the building in 45 years. Westlake Reed Leskosky is the lead architectural design and engineering firm, and Consigli Construction Co. Inc. is the general construction contractor. Both firms are recognized leaders in working with museums and historic buildings.

A dramatic new carpet for the Grand Staircase, designed by French architect Odile Decq in her signature red color, re-establishes the French influence in the building. Further enhancing the new, contemporary look of public spaces are a lighter paint palette in the galleries, custom-designed furnishings for the lobby by metalsmith Marc Mairoana, LED up-lighting of the ceiling coves and gilding on decorative moldings.

The renovation of this National Historic Landmark has revealed two long-concealed ceiling vaults on the second floor, restored the original 19th-century window configuration throughout and repaired original moldings and other decorative features, in addition to numerous other preservation efforts. Infrastructure has been replaced or upgraded with the most up-to-date sustainable and energy- efficient technologies.

Public and gallery spaces are now illuminated entirely with LED lighting. The new lighting system is a landmark advance in museum energy efficiency and, combined with other infrastructure improvements, will reduce the building’s energy usage by more than 70 percent, making the Renwick Gallery one of the most energy efficient Smithsonian museums. Read more in-depth details about the renovation here.

Inaugural Exhibition—“WONDER”

The debut exhibition, “WONDER,” features new site-specific installations by nine contemporary artists, including Jennifer Angus, Chakaia Booker, Gabriel Dawe, Tara Donovan, Patrick Dougherty, Janet Echelman, John Grade, Maya Lin and Leo Villareal. Each artist works intensively with expressive materials—including tires, thread, insects, branches, netting, glass marbles and LED light strips—to create larger-than-life installations that will transform the museum into an immersive artwork. Nicholas R. Bell, The Fleur and Charles Bresler Curator-in-Charge of the Renwick Gallery, organized the exhibition. Public Programs and Events

A series of public programs and events will accompany the opening. Celebratory galas will be held Tuesday, Nov. 10, and Wednesday, Nov. 11 (tickets $75) featuring exclusive previews of “WONDER.” A morning ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Nov. 13 (weather permitting), will precede a free open house where the public can explore the galleries, meet curators and enjoy live music. The Renwick will remain open after hours that evening to present a large-scale version of its DIY program, “Handi-hour,” featuring “all you can craft” activities inspired by artworks in “WONDER,” craft beer and live music. This event is ticketed ($25 in advance and $30 at the door) and available for ages 21 and up. A free festival Saturday, Nov. 14, for children, families and visitors of all ages will feature craft activities, artist demonstrations, musical performances and museum tours. Details are available at events and in an advisory.”

Renwick Wonder
Photo by Ron Blunt

7 Comment

  • Has anyone seen it, and how horrified were you at that big bright signage on the front and side? Could you imagine if another the National Gallery or the Lincoln Memorial had that? WTH were they thinking?

    • Absolutely agree! It’s incredibly tacky and unfortunate.

    • I think the signage is appropriate & even necessary due to the fact that the gallery is not in the standard museum/monument neighborhood, and its front door is on a block that’s often closed by the Secret Service for various reasons (Presidential motorcades, foreign heads of state at Blair House, etc.). I think they need to boldly advertise that they are a museum that’s open to the public.

  • Gorgeous building. Signage doesn’t bother me at all. In fact I find it perfectly appropriate to being a public building announcing its exhibition.

  • The Renwick is one of several museums here whose existence is unknown to a lot of people. The signs fit the color of the building and are no more inappropriate than banners I’ve seen on other museums including the National Gallery. The Renwick is, in many ways, a relatively unknown gem. The National Gallery is probably the most overrated museum here–poor layout in both haves, the shopping mall basement, and a very uneven collection.

  • The flashing neon sign is pretty freaking atrocious. The building itself is beautiful, and I think it seriously clashes with it. However, what really matters is what’s happening inside and this show is, as usual, excellent. I love the Renwick – I suspect a lot of people think it’s a staid institution, but I’ll tell you what: they have some of the most exciting and fresh art I’ve seen in this city at times. Certainly more fresh than its modern and contemporary Smithsonian sister, the Hirshhorn. Love the Renwick.

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