On June 3, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art will temporarily close to complete an extensive renovation. The Fort Worth museum will reopen to the public on September 14, revealing reimagined galleries and a series of special exhibitions.
The museum opened in 1961 and is one of renowned architect Philip Johnson's signature creations. Johnson designed it as a small memorial structure and the building was renovated multiple times to keep up with the museum's needs.
In 1998, the museum embarked on another renovation, turning once again to Johnson. Johnson decided to remove previous expansions to make way for his comprehensive vision of the museum. The museum reopened in 2001 and Johnson called it "the building of my career."
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The museum has continued to grow, making this renovation necessary. Maintaining Johnson's intentions was a top priority for the museum's leadership.
"We've enhanced his vision from his 2001 renovation," Andrew J. Walker, the museum's executive director, said. "He understood this building and what he understood was that this building evolves. As Fort Worth changes so does the Amon Carter."
This project, which began in October 2018, has three prongs: preservation, renovation and access. Expanding and updating the climate-controlled storage for preservation of the museum's photographic collection was essential. Currently, the museum has 45,000 exhibition-ready prints and 250,000 items related to the history of photography.
"It's something that makes us distinctive and unique and so why not turn our assets and our resources and our efforts to make sure this national treasure's longevity and preservation are assured?" Walker said. "It's a commitment of the institution to continue to be able to demonstrate how important this media is to understanding the human experience of American creativity."
The interior renovation of the galleries will include new sightlines, moveable walls for adjustable layouts, state-of-the-art lighting, and hardwood floors.
"At the time Philip Johnson's design was completed, the use of carpeting brought a sensibility for that moment. But we've outgrown that moment," Walker said.
The renovation will reconfigure galleries, recapturing 4,000 sq. ft. of permanent gallery space. The museum is consolidating its rotating gallery spaces into one section, adding 3,000 sq. ft. for a special exhibition space that can accommodate larger traveling exhibitions.
"We've had to sometimes turn down exhibitions because we didn't have enough space," Walker said.
The new galleries will re-envision the permanent collection, elevating the museum experience. "There will be a more thematic approach so that you have a sense of a story because each picture has a story and each grouping of pictures tells a story. In large measure, it's that storytelling quality that makes this collection resonate with magic," Walker said.
The museum wants all visitors to be able to easily access the renovated museum. In addition to some regrading, pathways will be added to the museum's garden beds at the main entrance to accommodate those using wheelchairs and strollers.
"It's not something Philip Johnson would have considered in his day," Walker said. "But we've been able to do this in a way that maintains the integrity of the design."
Several exhibitions will open on September 14. "Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early Works 1940 – 1950" explores the beginning of this influential African American photographer's career through 150 photographs as well as magazines, newspapers, pamphlets and books.
"Seeing in Detail: Scott and Stuart Gentling's Birds of Texas" features 23 exceptionally detailed watercolors of Texas birds from the museum's permanent collection.
"Set in Motion: Camille Utterback and Art That Moves" is an interactive installation. Utterback has written computer software that translates visitors' movements in the gallery into an evolving animated digital painting.
"Puente Nuevo" by Justin Favela is an immersive installation commissioned specifically for the museum. Favela uses tissue paper to reinterpret artwork from the past and the artist will cover the gallery walls with murals inspired by works in the museum's collection. This exhibition features a sculptural tissue-paper tribute to the museum's mobile "Untitled" by Alexander Calder.
James Surls' sculpture "Seven and Seven Flower" will greet visitors to the reopened museum. The Texas artist used pine and steel to create writhing blossoms suspended in space, evoking a dynamic relationship between the earthly and the spiritual.