Smithsonian American Art Museum picks Selldorf Architects for major gallery renovation

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Smithsonian American Art Museum picks Selldorf Architects for major gallery renovation

Rendering looking west through the Lincoln Gallery (Selldorf Architects)

Late last week the Smithsonian American Art Museum announced it has picked Selldorf Architects for a major revamp of the galleries in its main building.

Selldorf Architects’ work with the Smithsonian goes back to 2020, when the New York firm completed concept design and master plan for the museum. The plan proposed display areas for old and new media, such as gallery devoted to video and time-based works. Even as exhibition areas are being refitted with larger wallspaces and new galleries to accommodate an ever-more-diverse collection, the design will preserve the Greek Revival elegance of the 19th-century building. All in all, the firm will renovate about 20,000 square feet of gallery space.

Selldorf is also working on another Smithsonian project in the U.S. capital city. Alongside Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) the firm is renovating the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in what’s been described as the largest campus revitalization project in the history of the contemporary and modern art museum.

The renovations will showcase new acquisitions and feature exhibitions that better include contributions Black, Latinx, Asian American, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, and women’s contributions to American art.

“This reinstallation project will invite essential conversations around inclusion and diversity now central to both public discourse and the daily work of arts organizations,” said Stephanie Stebich, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in a news release. “It will shed new light on American artists whose voices will be more prominent in conversations about American art. I am delighted to partner with Annabelle Selldorf, along with our curatorial and interpretation teams, to refocus and revitalize our signature galleries and public spaces to showcase a multiplicity of perspectives and experiences and to better serve our ever-growing audiences.”

“It has been a pleasure to work with SAAM leadership and staff on reimagining their galleries and public spaces,” added Selldorf Architects Principal Annabelle Selldorf. “While respecting the historic architecture, our new gallery designs allow the museum to tell more diverse stories from the collection, making the visitor experience more welcoming, inclusive, and impactful.”

While the Smithsonian is a public institution, Selldorf Architects’ project is funded privately. Alongside contributions from the museum’s advisory board, the Henry Luce Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art are among the donors who have so far raised $9 million for the renovations. Visitors may notice that the art looks especially luminous. That’s thanks to a separate renovation project, a $13.7 million–endeavor funded by the federal government.

The work will be completed in phases so the museum can remain mostly open during the renovations. The modern and contemporary art gallery on the third floor is slated to reopen in September.