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I.M. Pei’s National Gallery of Art reopens after $69M renovation

The renovation added 12,250 square feet of gallery space without making the building any bigger

Over in Washington, D.C., the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, designed by I. M. Pei in 1978, just wrapped up a three-year, $69 million renovation. The changes managed to create an extra 12,250 square feet of interior gallery space without expanding the footprint of the building, which houses the contemporary collection of D.C.’s leading art museum.

When the institution decided to embark on a renovation, I.M. Pei recommended a former colleague, Perry Chin, to create the concept for the upgrades. Chin ended up finding half of the extra exhibition space on the roof, with the addition of an outdoor sculpture garden. Opening up new space in two of the towers of the building and inserting floors in those towers also added room. A new, more accessible staircase now connects the galleries. Local firm Hartman-Cox Architects carried out the design.

The museum’s head of Modern art, Harry Cooper, also had to completely reimagine the narrative of the visitor path, reinstalling the collection to create a clearer historical timeline for the evolution of art starting in the 20th century.

Whereas once only 350 works from the permanent collection were displayed in the original building, now there’s capacity to showcase 525 pieces. And with the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture just a 15-minute walk away, there’s ample reason to pay a visit and get an eye load.