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Old 03-06-2009, 07:00 AM   #41
statler
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

Boston Globe - March 6, 2009
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SJC says museum expansion won't violate will

By Geoff Edgers, Globe Staff | March 6, 2009

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that the expansion plans of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum do not violate restrictions created by the museum's founder in her will.

The decision gives the museum permission to remove a carriage house on its Fenway site; create a new entrance, a new building for offices, a gift shop, a cafe, and visitor center, and build a glass walkway between the buildings.

The decision follows reviews by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Boston Landmarks Commission, and the Massachusetts Historical Commission, all of which supported the Gardner. The high court's ruling did not please one community group, the Friends of Mission Hill, which has opposed the plans to knock down the carriage house.

Alison Pultinas, a member of the group, said she is now concerned that the economy will stall the project after the carriage house gets knocked down.

"We are just apprehensive that we might end up with a hole in the ground," Pultinas said.

It's been more than four years since director Anne Hawley announced that the museum, which opened in 1903, would undergo its first major expansion. The Gardner has hired Italian architect Renzo Piano to create a multistory building on the museum's Fenway site that would be connected to the ornate building that Gardner, a Boston socialite, designed, modeling it after a Venetian palace.

At the time, Hawley estimated the project would cost at least $60 million and would be finished by 2010. Since then, officials of the museum have backed off providing details on the potential cost and timeline.

"We do not intend to break ground or move forward with the project until we are confident we've met our fund-raising goals," said museum spokeswoman Katherine Armstrong.
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Old 03-08-2009, 09:00 AM   #42
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

"We might end up with a hole in the ground."

Was changed big time once before: the place lost its very best artworks in the big heist.
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Old 03-15-2009, 09:45 AM   #43
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

From the Sunday New York Times:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The New York Times
A Wounded Museum Feels a Jolt of Progress

By ABBY GOODNOUGH
Published: March 13, 2009

BOSTON

THE heavy gold frames in the Dutch Room have been empty for 19 years this month. And the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, this city?s beloved temple to idiosyncrasy, seems no closer to finding the masterpieces they once held than it has on every other sad anniversary of the nation?s most storied art heist.

The frames are the bluntest reminder of the dead-of-night theft on March 18, 1990, of three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, a Manet and other works worth several hundred million dollars by two men disguised as police officers. They remain blank because the will of Isabella Stewart Gardner, the museum?s exacting founder, requires that nothing in the collection ever be moved, and that no new works brought in.

That constraint, along with the lingering wound of the theft, has imposed rare challenges for the Gardner as today?s museums compete ever more fiercely for donors and visitors. While its hodgepodge of a collection delights some visitors, its odd mix of treasures and tchotchkes, in galleries so dark as to offer only a dusky view of some objects, leaves others perplexed.

Yet the museum has labored in recent years to shed its fusty image and move past the theft that has, for better or worse, given it a reputation of being ?touched with evil,? as Douglass Shand-Tucci, who wrote a biography of Gardner, once put it. Its latest goal, a 65,000-square-foot new building designed by Renzo Piano to sit behind Gardner?s century-old mansion, is the boldest yet.

For Anne Hawley, the museum?s director since 1989, the heist presented a paradox: the shock helped her bring about change far more rapidly than she would have as a new director under normal circumstances. She described it as a ?shot of adrenaline? that led not just to the expansion campaign but to a residency program in which artists have installed surreal video art, composed vibraphone music or created graphic novels to complement the timeworn surroundings.

Now, in a victory the Gardner had been awaiting for months, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled on March 4 that the museum can depart from the strict parameters of Gardner?s prickly will. It called the expansion a ?reasonable deviation? from the will because it is in the public interest to protect the building from overuse.

According to the will if the arrangement of any of the museum?s holdings changes, the entire collection, the building and the land beneath it must be turned over to Harvard.

Bostonians, who mythologize Gardner and are proudly protective of her wishes, are back and forth over whether the expansion threatens the very identity of the museum. An even bigger question is whether the museum?s goal of raising at least $60 million for the project is as otherworldly as the collection itself, given the economic free fall.

But Ms. Hawley calls the expansion crucial to the Gardner?s survival. The building, modeled on a 15th-century Venetian palace with an interior courtyard garden enclosed by a glass ceiling, has suffered too much wear and tear, she said.

An audit warned that without new space for the museum?s frequent concerts, its cafe and the coatroom and classrooms for thousands of schoolchildren who visit each year, the collection faced irreparable damage. As many as 200,000 visitors trundle through the small galleries each year, she said, up from 1,000 when Gardner opened the collection to the public in 1903.

?We all felt to be a static museum wasn?t sustainable,? Ms. Hawley said.

Rather than thwarting Gardner?s wish that the museum exist ?for the education and enjoyment of the public forever,? Ms. Hawley asserted that the addition will ensure it is honored for years to come.

Mr. Piano is ubiquitous in the world of museum expansion, and his reputation for inventive but subtle designs made him a better match for the Gardner and its mandate than a bold fantasist like Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid. His design calls for a new building just behind the museum that is slightly larger but no taller than the main building. It will house a cube-shaped performance hall with seating for 300 and apartments for artists in residence, as well as more spacious administrative offices and conservation labs.

A new entrance, cafe, gift shop and special exhibition gallery will also be part of the addition.

Mr. Piano wants to connect the new building to the museum with a glass corridor. That would require moving a wall and a sarcophagus, steps that needed and won the court?s approval.

The plan also entails demolishing a brick carriage house behind the museum that has never been open to the public and four greenhouses that would be replaced with a single, larger one to grow the year-round plants and flowers for the courtyard.

Katherine Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the Gardner, said the new building would play the role of ?respectful nephew to the grand aunt,? with a plain exterior that will not outshine the buff-colored brick dowager.

A neighborhood preservation group has opposed the project on the grounds that it violates Gardner?s will, but with the high court?s approval there is no barrier but the need to raise money.

That, of course, is an infinitely steeper challenge now than when Ms. Hawley and the museum?s trustees first envisioned the expansion. They have not yet started a public fund-raising campaign, and the initial estimate of $60 million may be conservative.

Broadening the challenge, the plan is unfolding on the heels of $500 million in fund-raising for a capital project at the Museum of Fine Arts and a $75 million campaign the Institute of Contemporary Art, both in Boston.

Barbara Hostetter, the wife of a cable magnate, president of the Gardner?s board and leader of a foundation that has given away as much as $45 million a year, is seen as a powerful asset. But whether the museum can still count on Mrs. Hostetter and other donors remains to be seen.

The court?s approval was a welcome piece of news at a time of year that feels to Ms. Hawley and others on her staff like the anniversary of a violent death. Despite a $5 million reward, a mountain of tips that still grows almost weekly and the hiring in 2005 of a new security director ? Anthony Amore, who describes himself as obsessed with the case ? another March 18 will almost certainly pass without the stolen art?s return.

The theft has roiled many imaginations, including that of Ulrich Boser, whose book, ?The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World?s Largest Unsolved Art Theft,? was published last month by HarperCollins. It examines a web of theories about the case and more or less concludes that the culprits were David Turner, now serving a 38-year prison term for attempting to rob an armored car, and George Reissfelder, a felon who died in 1991.

Mr. Boser tracked down a witness who saw two men who appeared to be police officers, presumably the thieves, in a car outside the Gardner on the night of the theft. The witness, who told Mr. Boser that the police only cursorily interviewed him afterward and never showed him mug shots, picked Mr. Turner?s photo out of several that Mr. Boser shared with him.

Ms. Hawley said she thought the F.B.I. did not work the case aggressively or skillfully enough at first, and the new book concurs. It points out, among other things, that the original agent in charge was only 26 years old.

?The F.B.I. gives a very standard line that they investigate all viable leads,? Mr. Boser said in an interview. ?But occasionally you?ll see evidence where they?re not.?

Special Agent Geoffrey Kelly of the F.B.I.?s field office in Boston, who has led the investigation for eight years, said he still spends ?a good deal of time? running down intriguing leads. One of his predecessors went to Japan on a promising tip that led him only to a ?very good copy? of ?The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,? Rembrandt?s only seascape.

One of the strangest twists came in 1997, when a suspect arranged for Tom Mashberg, a reporter for The Boston Herald, to be driven to a warehouse and shown what appeared to be the Rembrandt seascape. ?We?ve Seen It!? a headline in The Herald shrieked. But Mr. Kelly said investigators could never confirm whether Mr. Mashberg glimpsed the real thing.

?It could be anywhere at this point,? Mr. Kelly said, adding that he finds the Gardner?s empty frames ?taunting.?

Emphasizing that the United States attorney for Massachusetts, Michael J. Sullivan, has said he would ?entertain immunity? for whoever returns the paintings, Mr. Kelly said that ?time is of the essence.?

Mr. Amore, a former Homeland Security official who helped overhaul security at Logan International Airport here after the Sept. 11 attacks, said he has built a database of every lead that has come in since the theft. (Security at the Gardner is now ?a step over? the standard for museums, he added.) He said he gets frequent tips, including one from a repeat caller who insisted that former Vice President Dick Cheney was behind the theft.

Last month a more tantalizing lead surfaced: a prisoner said through his lawyer that Mr. Reissfelder had told him before dying that the art was stashed in a house in Maine. After searching for hidden crawl spaces in several houses, Mr. Amore said, he determined that the lead was no good. Ms. Hawley said she no longer thrills to each new theory.

?The first five years, every time there was a new way of going at it, I would get my hopes so high,? she said. ?Then they would just be dashed again. Now I remain agnostic on every one. I just look coldly at these things and try to ask the best questions.?

On March 18, 1990, a security guard let the thieves into the museum shortly after 1 a.m. when they claimed to be police officers investigating a disturbance, even though the rules forbade letting anyone in. They bound and gagged him and a second guard and ransacked the place in a seemingly slapdash fashion, leaving several of its most valuable works while taking a small beaker and a finial from a flag.

They also snatched Vermeer?s ?Concert,? Manet?s ?Chez Tortoni? and works by Degas and Govaert Flinck.

?It?s like removing a piece of our civilization,? Ms. Hawley said. ?Imagine ?Hamlet? will never be performed again, or you will never hear a Dizzy Gillespie piece again.?

The sole benefit of the robbery, in Ms. Hawley?s mind, was that it focused keen attention on the museum and shook it up, helping to bring about the museum?s artist-in-residence program in 1992, a program for schoolchildren in 1996 and a campaign that raised $34 million to make renovations and add climate control.

Ms. Hawley is especially proud of the artist-in-residence program, which brings unknown but promising artists to live and work at the museum for a year. A recent resident, Luisa Rabbia, rearranged photos from a scrapbook Gardner had kept on an 1883 trip to China to create a video layered with Ms. Rabbia?s own drawings.

?This was always a place where minds were on fire,? Ms. Hawley said, referring to Gardner?s penchant for having artists, musicians and dancers ? including one who performed something called the Cobra ? appear at the museum in her day. ?I took this legacy and brought it back to life in today?s terms.?

Ms. Hawley hired EchoDitto, an Internet consulting firm, to help the museum recruit members and communicate with them online. Attendance is growing ? it was up almost 14 percent last month from the previous February ? but the museum needs more repeat visitors.

Its membership base remains small, slightly more than 3,000 as compared with 70,000 at the Museum of Fine Arts, its much larger neighbor.

The museum also heavily promotes After Hours, a monthly evening program with music and cocktails aimed at people in their 20s and 30s. The event has its own Facebook group with about 400 members, podcasts of its music and a signature cocktail, the Madame Gautreau, named after the subject of John Singer Sargent?s ?Madame X.?

The museum is also overhauling its lighting so the collection can be seen and preserved more easily.

Mr. Boser said the Gardner frustrates some art historians and curators because its collection of 5,000 objects spanning 30 centuries, and the building itself, are meant to solicit not an intellectual but an emotional, highly personal response. That helps explain why people viewing the empty frames, be it an F.B.I. agent, a first-time visitor or a lifelong fan of the museum, respond so viscerally.

?If a painting were stolen out of a contemporary art gallery where the walls are all white,? he said, ?you might say it?s a shame for that artwork. But the way that people who visit this place feel violated, it?s like somebody stole this art out of their own living room.?
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Old 03-15-2009, 08:16 PM   #44
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

Quote:
Mr. Boser said the Gardner frustrates some art historians and curators because its collection of 5,000 objects spanning 30 centuries, and the building itself, are meant to solicit not an intellectual but an emotional, highly personal response. That helps explain why people viewing the empty frames, be it an F.B.I. agent, a first-time visitor or a lifelong fan of the museum, respond so viscerally.

?If a painting were stolen out of a contemporary art gallery where the walls are all white,? he said, ?you might say it?s a shame for that artwork. But the way that people who visit this place feel violated, it?s like somebody stole this art out of their own living room.?
It's true. This used to be my favorite museum before the heist. I haven't been back since.
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Old 03-15-2009, 08:25 PM   #45
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

That's a shame. It's still a magnificent place.

I'd like to make it out for one of the Thursday after hours events (though I wonder whether Ms. Gardner would approve of random urbanites swilling cocktails in her bedroom).
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Old 03-16-2009, 05:23 PM   #46
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

I've only ever been to the Gardner since the heists, and it is a magical experience. Their exhibition space is pretty sad, I must admit, but the structure and all of its components are one big cohesive masterpeice. I support the addition just because I love the palace as it stands, and the palace won't really be altered in the addition, but the deserving organization enhanced because of it. The crew running things there maintain one of Boston's proudest institutions (which may just be simply because of Mrs. Jack's will), so why not support their very well thought out plans?
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Old 05-17-2009, 06:26 AM   #47
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

Boston Globe - May 17, 2009
Quote:
What fate for the carriage house that Mrs. Jack built?
Dispute erupts over Gardner Museum plan


By Sebastian Smee, Globe Staff | May 17, 2009

Today, the Carriage House at the rear of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum stands forlornly facing an empty lot, strewn with detritus and blocked by fences. It is an imposing structure with a dramatic facade, but few people are even aware it exists, or that Gardner helped design it or that her two dogs were buried nearby, their names painted on a connecting wall.

Fewer still know it may be about to disappear.

The museum's board of trustees votes tomorrow on a major expansion plan that would pave the way for the Carriage House's demolition. And, at the 11th hour, the fate of the once-handsome building has erupted into a furor, perhaps the most serious crisis at the museum since the nighttime theft of several masterpieces in 1990.

Museum staff members have approached the Globe in recent days as part of a last-ditch effort to stop the plan, directing attention to as-yet unpublished research supporting the Carriage House's historic importance and arguing that museum director Anne Hawley has stifled debate on the subject. Meanwhile, the museum has hired a public relations company, Weber Shandwick Worldwide, to try to limit the potential damage.

The controversy over whether to preserve or demolish the Carriage House for the sake of a proposed new building designed by Renzo Piano has been smoldering for several years. The purpose of the expansion, which would accommodate a shop, restaurant, offices, and performance space, is to take pressure off the original Venetian palazzo, which is currently providing some functions not foreseen by Gardner.

The expansion proposal has been put before a number of regulatory bodies, all of which have approved it, and cleared what appeared to be a final hurdle in March when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts confirmed that the project is "entirely consistent with the primary purpose" of Gardner's famously restrictive will.

Hawley says that there is nothing new in the research, and that all relevant information regarding the Carriage House's historical significance was made available to the regulatory authorities that approved the project, from the Boston Landmarks Commission to the Massachusetts Historical Commission. She says that each regulatory body considered whether the museum had any alternative to the planned expansion, and each body concluded that the project was justified. Furthermore, she says that the Carriage House, which has lately been used for storage and a visiting-artist apartment, "was never public and never part of the visitor experience" and is not protected by Gardner's will.

In essence, the debate comes down to a fight over Gardner's legacy. "What would Isabella do?" is the question everyone seems to be asking. Both sides believe themselves best placed to understand what she intended.

On the one hand, the museum's leadership, while acknowledging the Carriage House's historic value, maintains that demolishing it would accord with Gardner's wishes for the long-term health of her museum. The other side, while recognizing the pressures on the original building, believes that the museum leadership has failed to understand the way the Carriage House's design reflects the deeper significance of Gardner's aesthetic philosophy.

The latest unrest has been fueled by a new essay by Robert Colby, a scholar with a PhD in Renaissance art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London who recently completed a temporary stint as a curatorial fellow at the Gardner. Colby's essay draws on a 1978 article by Rollin Hadley, a former director of the museum, which notes that the Carriage House's facade was inspired by a photo of the ceremonial archway of Altamura, a town in southern Italy. "Altamura" was also the name of an aesthetic utopia - a monastery where art was believed to possess redemptive qualities - imagined by the great art historian Bernard Berenson, Gardner's friend and adviser. Colby uses new archival, documentary, and interpretive material to argue that the idea behind "Altamura" helped inspire Gardner's developing self-conception and her vision for the museum. Immediately after Berenson sent her a postcard of the Altamura archway, Gardner chose to model the facade of her carriage house on it.

Colby has been hesitant about releasing his findings. He says he admires Hawley and broadly supports the direction in which she has been taking the museum. He has been warned by senior colleagues that he may ruin his career if he releases his essay. But on Wednesday he sent copies of it to the museum director and two members of the board, hoping the board would incorporate the new information into its decision-making process.

Both sides are marshalling allies to their cause. Trevor Fairbrother, a freelance curator and former staffer at the Museum of Fine Arts who has a long association with the Gardner, wrote in a private letter obtained by the Globe that Colby's findings "make it certain that the Carriage House, walls and trellises constituted a key element in the founder's vision of Fenway Court as an architectural and horticultural statement."

In the letter, Fairbrother regrets the failure of local historical preservation bodies to make a rigorous study of the Carriage House's significance. "If those agencies were reviewing the case today," he writes, Colby's "new research would likely persuade them to preserve the building."

The Boston Landmarks Commission says it is now examining Colby's essay, and the Boston Preservation Alliance is reviewing the situation based on the new information.

Meanwhile, the museum sent the Globe a list of quotes by supporters of the Piano-designed expansion, from local Fenway residents to Mayor Thomas M. Menino. Some on the museum staff, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear for their jobs, believe that various alternatives, such as moving the Carriage House, were not given fair consideration.

Some former staffers are also questioning the planned demolition.

"The Carriage House is wonderful," says Barbara Mangum, a former head of conservation at the museum. "Architecturally it's very interesting. It was built by Isabella Stewart Gardner, so it's part of her intended estate. But it isn't protected by her will.

"I'm sympathetic to the need to expand," continues Mangum. "But I wonder, could it be moved, or incorporated into the new building?"

During the period of his research, Colby attempted to speak with Hawley and other senior staff about his findings, but was unsuccessful. Hawley acknowledged in an interview that at a staff meeting, after debate about the new extension, she told staff members that if they couldn't support the proposal, they might want to consider leaving the museum. She describes Colby's essay as "an interesting interpretation," a description echoed by Alan Chong, a curator at the museum. "It's possible the Carriage House did mean something to [Gardner]," Chong says, but "there is a tremendous lack of evidence."

Colby questions whether the museum has made a thorough examination of the building's history. "A museum's job is not to take the material remnants of the past and critique them, find them wanting and then dispose of them," he says. "It's to study those remnants."

Ellen Lipsey, executive director of the Boston Landmarks Commission, says the commission asked the museum "for any indication that Mrs. Gardner was directly involved in that very unusual design" of the Carriage House.

When the museum first submitted its proposal to the Boston Landmarks Commission in 2007, it failed to include Hadley's article about the connection with Berenson's Altamura. "To be frank," said Hawley, "I didn't know about it." Instead, it was brought to the attention of the commission by Gardner's biographer, Douglass Shand-Tucci, who supports the Carriage House's demolition. The museum subsequently provided the article to all regulatory authorities.

Hawley says the museum has acknowledged all along that the Carriage House has historical significance. "I have a deep affection for that structure," she says, while adding that architecturally, it is "not that interesting." But she says that after an exhaustive process of researching alternatives, the museum concluded that there was no feasible way to complete the new building while preserving it.

Sebastian Smee can be reached at ssmee@globe.com.
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Old 05-17-2009, 07:44 AM   #48
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

There don't seem to be any 'bad guys' in this story, just two sides with the best of motivations that unfortunately are incompatible with each other. I'd hate to be the judge who has to sort this out.
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Old 05-17-2009, 07:44 AM   #49
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

I hate to say it, but a careful and non-romantisized understanding of Mrs. Gardner would indicated that she was not a preservationist, but rather, someone with a keen sense of the art world and a quirky, but effective use of architectural materials to display it. She would probably dismiss the carriage house as an inconvenience if she were using the land for a more noble purpose, to wit: the preservation of the Palace and it's collection, as well as the possibility of exposing new populations to her art. She was not merely a dowdy eccentric. She was, in fact, someone who loved to draw attention to herself, to shock others, to make them think, and to disseminate her unique post-Victorian philosophy of art and culture. In some ways she was the Paris Hilton of her era, only with exceptional intelligence, taste and vision.
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Old 05-17-2009, 02:08 PM   #50
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

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Originally Posted by Padre Mike View Post
=In some ways she was the Paris Hilton of her era, only with exceptional intelligence, taste and vision.
That's hot!

Thanks for your insight, Padre.

A shame that an architect as bright as Piano didn't incorporate elements of the carriage house into his design, as he recently did in his recent California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.
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Old 05-19-2009, 08:33 AM   #51
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

Boston Globe - May 19, 2009
Quote:
Gardner museum expansion approved
Vote means 1907 carriage house will be torn down


By Sebastian Smee, Globe Staff | May 19, 2009

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's trustees voted unanimously yesterday to proceed with a new building designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano - a plan that has stirred up opponents who want a carriage house at the back of the museum preserved.

The purpose of the construction project is to relieve pressure on the existing building, which houses a shop, a cafe, performance space, and offices. The plan calls for demolition of the carriage house, erected by Gardner in 1907. The museum building opened in 1903.

It became a focal point of debate last week, when several staff members and experts associated with the museum suggested it may have been more central to Isabella Stewart Gardner's vision than the museum's leadership had realized or acknowledged.

They cited a recent essay by Robert Colby, a former curatorial fellow at the museum with a PhD in Renaissance art history from London's Courtauld Art Institute.

The Gardner museum's director, Anne Hawley, said Colby's essay, which built on research published by former director Rollin Hadley in 1978, contained nothing new. But Trevor Fairbrother, a freelance curator and former staffer at the Museum of Fine Arts, wrote in a letter obtained by the Globe that Colby's findings "make it certain that the Carriage House . . . constituted a key element in the founder's vision of Fenway Court . . . "

If officials who approved the construction project had seen the information in Colby's essay, they probably would have preserved the carriage house, he wrote.

One of the regulatory authorities, the Boston Landmarks Commission, said on Friday that it was reviewing Colby's findings. Last night, the commission could not be contacted. No one at the museum was available for comment. A statement from the museum said the board recognized the museum had met "a critical internal benchmark in its capital fund-raising." It said the vote marked "the final formal approval the museum needs."

"This project is first and foremost about preserving the palace and the collection," John Lowell Gardner, chairman of the Board of Trustees and great grand-nephew of Isabella Gardner, said in a prepared statement. " . . . This project is a harmonious marriage of preservation and progress."

The museum has not disclosed the project's cost, but it has been reported to be in excess of $100 million.

Sebastian Smee can be reached at ssmee@globe.com.
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Old 07-17-2009, 12:46 PM   #52
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

From the Boston Globe:

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Originally Posted by Boston Globe

Gardner Museum tears down structure at heart of dispute

By Sebastian Smee, Globe Staff | July 7, 2009

A building with an intimate connection to one of Boston?s most celebrated figures, Isabella Stewart Gardner, was smashed to the ground yesterday at the back of the museum that bears her name.

The so-called carriage house was razed to make way for new museum buildings designed by the architect Renzo Piano. The museum gained all the necessary approvals for the action from the relevant preservation bodies, including the Boston Landmarks Commission and the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

Plans to demolish the carriage house became acutely controversial in May, when staff inside the museum drew attention to a new essay by scholar Robert Colby exploring the historical significance of the building.

The controversy increased after the museum?s director, Anne Hawley, told the Globe that she had not been aware of the building?s historical context until after plans for its demolition were presented to the Boston Landmarks Commission - even though that context had been spelled out in an essay by her predecessor, Rollin Hadley.

Despite attempts by the museum to characterize it as a mere ?garage,?? the carriage house was, for Gardner, more than just a place to keep her carriage. Like the rest of her unusual ?palazzo,?? it was always intended to evoke wider, symbolic meanings.

Colby?s essay explains that Gardner started planning the carriage house less than three months after opening Fenway Court to the public in 1903. Her original design was not built. It was supplanted by a 1907 design that featured a whimsical facade based on a building in the southern Italian town of Altamura.

Hadley explained that it was not the town itself Gardner was interested in alluding to. Rather it was an aesthetic utopia called ?Altamura?? that had been imagined by her collaborator, the great Renaissance art historian Bernard Berenson, in an essay of 1897. The ?Altamurans?? in that fictional essay lived in a palace monastery where art was believed to possess redemptive and spiritually elevating powers.

Gardner had read the essay six months before beginning to build her museum. She eventually based the facade of the carriage house on the building in the town of Altamura after Berenson sent her a postcard of it.

The Globe obtained photographs of what the carriage house looked like in Gardner?s day, but the museum refused permission to reproduce them. The photographs show the ornate facade in the middle of a high wall extended by even higher trellises. On the outside was a public walkway, Italianate trees, and careful landscaping. Now, all that remains is a huge pile of splintered wood and rubble.
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Old 07-17-2009, 12:59 PM   #53
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

This would be a lot less sad if Piano's design was a whole lot better.
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Old 07-17-2009, 01:15 PM   #54
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

Can't say I ever saw it, but it looks atmospheric in the photo!
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Old 07-17-2009, 02:05 PM   #55
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

I dont see what the urgency was for demolition. It would be one thing if construction was imminent, but it isn't, and in this economic climate, there are questions as to whether the expansion will ever happen at all.

This appears to be just another case of a property owner demolishing a structure simply to render any potential questions pertaining to its preservation as irrelevant. That practice hasn't really served the city very well.
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Old 07-17-2009, 02:34 PM   #56
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

They should have incorporated the carriage house into Piano's design. Ironically, Piano did this very thing in his recent California Academy of Sciences; fragments of buildings that were damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake are enclosed within the new building's footprint.
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Old 07-17-2009, 02:44 PM   #57
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

Quote:
Originally Posted by briv View Post
I dont see what the urgency was for demolition. It would be one thing if construction was imminent, but it isn't, and in this economic climate, there are questions as to whether the expansion will ever happen at all.

This appears to be just another case of a property owner demolishing a structure simply to render any potential questions pertaining to its preservation as irrelevant. That practice hasn't really served the city very well.
Save this quote. You can reuse it in the SCL thread soon.
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Old 08-23-2009, 10:00 PM   #58
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

Front Inc has some images on their site that I don't think have been posted here before:
http://www.frontinc.com#/2?type=seri...edia=slideshow
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Old 10-29-2009, 01:02 AM   #59
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

Surprised to see how much they've already done... 10/26:











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Old 01-20-2010, 06:21 PM   #60
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Re: Gardner Museum to undertake $60 million expansion

All you Boston haters can go choke on it!

Choke on it!!


Quote:
Gardner's $118m expansion plan set
By Geoff Edgers, Globe Staff

Tomorrow morning, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will unveil the design for an ambitious $118 million expansion created by Italian architect Renzo Piano, a new glass and copper-clad wing that will fundamentally change the way visitors experience the museum.

The project, expected to be completed in early 2012, will more than double the size of the museum's footprint, creating a new entrance, music hall, gallery space, and other facilities for an institution largely unaltered since its opening in 1903.

Gardner's original Venetian-style palazzo will remain almost untouched as the wing connects to the existing museum through a glass passageway. A new four-story building will host visitor services such as the gift shop, cafe, and coat check, which are currently sited in cramped quarters in the palace. A new 300-seat music hall in the building will allow the Gardner to stop holding concerts in its delicate, often overcrowded tapestry room. A soaring new gallery for temporary shows, a visitors' "Living Room," offices, and conservation and education facilities will round out the building. A smaller second structure with a sloping glass roof will host greenhouses and apartments for artists-in-residence.

In total, the new wing will add 70,000 square feet to the museum's current 60,000 square feet. Construction is already underway on the wing, which is located in part on the grounds of Gardner's former Carriage House, destroyed in July amid controversy over the terms of her will and the Carriage House's historic significance.

The project is part of an unprecedented cultural building boom in Boston, with the Institute of Contemporary Art opening its new waterfront home in 2006 and the Museum of Fine Arts set to open a massive new wing later this year.

In an interview, Gardner Museum director Anne Hawley praised Piano for creating a design that doesn't overwhelm the current palazzo. The new main building will be 11 feet shorter than the approximately 70-foot high museum, and its glass-walled first floor will afford visitors a see-through view of the site.

"It's possible to wander up to the music hall and hear music, wander into a gallery and see an art project," Hawley said. "What I love about this design is that when the visitor first comes up to the building, everything they see is about art and their experience with it."

Jim Labeck, the Gardner's director of operations, emphasized that the new wing was created out of necessity. In the early days of the museum, about 2,000 people a year visited. Today, annual attendance hovers around 200,000.
"It relieves a lot of stress on the historic building," said Labeck. "That's really its most important function. It provides the space that the museum has really needed for 10 years so its programming can really blossom."

Right now, visitors enter the Gardner Museum via the Fenway. The new entrance will be around the corner on Evans Way, through a low-slung glass structure. Museumgoers will walk through the new wing into a glass corridor shaded by a canopy of trees, entering a section of the palace now taken up by the gift shop. From there, visitors will enter the Gardner's central courtyard through a new opening in the south end of the museum's East Cloister. To accommodate the new entrance, a sarcophagus will be moved to a spot a few feet away.

"It's the opposite side you enter, but there is the same sense of discovery," said Piano by phone.

At 1,800 square feet, the new cafe will be nearly three times the size of the current cafe. The new gallery will provide 2,000 square feet for contemporary art and changing exhibitions -- four times the current amount.

The music hall is one of the new wing's most distinctive features. A square structure with exactingly designed acoustics, it will place performers on the ground floor, surrounded on all sides by seats. Three balconies will ring the space, with seats just one row deep, for a total capacity of 296.

The Gardner first announced its plans for an expansion in 2004. That year it hired the world-renowned Piano, winner of the Pritzker Prize for architecture. Bill Egan, a museum trustee who chaired the Gardner's building committee, said Piano's design is respectful of the existing museum.

"The whole goal here was to make sure that we didn't change the experience of the palace, and only enhance that," said Egan. "I think we're going to have one of the great small concert halls in the world, but you know what? We're not going to have as many seats as [music director] Scott Nickrenz would have liked because the size was basically controlled by how big Renzo felt it could be as compared to the palace."

Piano said he's most pleased with the transparency of the new building. Glass can be found throughout the design, from the entryway and corridor to the sloping wall that lets onlookers see into the artist studios and greenhouses.

"The sense of lightness is a fundamental element, so it doesn't compete with the palace. The new building will be more visible, more accessible, more understandable from the outside," he said.

The total cost of the project will be $118 million, and the Gardner aims to raise an additional $40 million-plus in endowment to support it. The museum is also looking to raise $20 million for other preservation projects not related to the new wing.

While the MFA and ICA underwent successful fund-raising campaigns during the economic boom, the Gardner found itself struggling to complete its fund-raising during a recession.

Museum trustees extended Hawley's deadline for raising $100 million from last January to last May. But she was told the project would be put on hold if she couldn't hit her target. Hawley did. Museum trustees and overseers gave $79 million of the $100 million raised so far. Among the largest contributions was a gift from the Calderwood Charitable Foundation, which gave more than $10 million. The music hall will be named in honor of Norma Jean and Stanford Calderwood.

While raising the money was sometimes difficult, Hawley said the recession meant that construction costs fell dramatically during the last two years.

"There was tremendous pressure on all of us because our building people were saying you really need to get under contract in this environment because you'll get a much better price," said Hawley. "We were racing on this."

The Gardner's leaders were so eager to start building, they didn't bother holding a ground-breaking ceremony. In July, the museum began drilling energy-reducing, geothermal wells that are meant to help the project earn an LEED certification. The foundation has also been poured, and construction is ongoing.

Patricia Jacoby, the MFA's deputy director, said she was impressed by the museum's ability to start work during a recession.

"They had to make a case for scarcer resources than we did," said Jacoby. "So in many ways, I think they were rather smart to put a hole in the ground. That just reinforces there is a vision, there is a specific need, and they are not going to let the world hold them back."

Geoff Edgers can be reached at gedgers@globe.com. A critic's notebook
by Globe art critic Sebastian Smee on the expansion's design will appear in
the Globe on Jan. 21.

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