The Chrysler Museum at MacArthur Center?
As early as January, the Chrysler Museum of Art will display objects from its treasured collection in a storefront inside the downtown mall.
That's right, alongside Pottery Barn or J. Crew or possibly a new shop called Love Culture.
The Norfolk mall is one of several satellite sites for exhibitions and programs that the museum plans to occupy during the 16 months it anticipates closing for construction and renovation.
As expected, the museum's board voted Thursday to go ahead with the planned project, now estimated to cost $24 million. The museum "has firm commitments" from donors for all but about $2.5 million of that sum.
Bill Hennessey, museum director, said the staff sought locations where the art "would be seen by the largest and most diverse audience possible."
Other sites to display art and stage programs after the museum closes in January will include Old Dominion University's Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries and the museum's two historic houses, all in Norfolk, and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach.
The vote unleashed the museum to leap into complex plans that were slowly crafted over years.
The project entails a 10,000-square-foot addition, most of it in gallery space, and the installation of a new climate-control system.
The museum has to temporarily close because, to replace antiquated heating and cooling equipment, that system must be turned off and ceilings and some walls torn open. With no climate control, all the museum's art must leave the building.
Over the next few weeks, the Chrysler will send out bids to roughly six local construction companies, said Susan Leidy, the museum's deputy director who was hired about six months ago, partly for her experience in similar closures at other museums.
H&A Architects & Engineers of Virginia Beach designed the project, which places the addition on the front of the building, facing the Hague. The walls behind gardens flanking the main entrance will be brought forward about 30 feet.
From outside, when the museum reopens in April 2014, it will look much as it does now, except the main entrance will be handicapped-accessible. Disabled visitors must now enter the museum through a side entrance.
The addition will enlarge display space for ancient worlds, modern, contemporary, American and European art and, most especially, for its internationally known collection of glass art.
"We'll have a third more space for glass," bringing the museum's entire glass display to about 9,000 square feet, the director said.
The expanded gallery space will allow the museum to show more from its 30,000-piece collection. Now, about 20 percent of those works is on display.
Additional gallery space also is crucial to luring donations of art that would enhance the museum's holdings.
"Museums need to continue to change and grow and evolve, not just with the times but with the community," Hennessey said. For example, he said the museum hopes to add more pieces of contemporary glass art, a growing passion among local collectors and visitors.
To attract such donations, a museum needs space to showcase them, he said.
Starting in July and continuing until the museum shuts down in January, the museum will close a few galleries each month, so that the packing and transporting of works is a staggered effort.
"We are phasing things so we close for the shortest amount of time possible," Leidy said.
Pieces from the collection will be loaned during 2013 to select museums across the country, such as the National Gallery of Art, Hennessey said.
Even with local exhibitions and the loans, a large portion of the collection must be stored. Sites have been identified and will remain secret.
Both exhibition and storage sites must be climate-controlled and secure. The museum remains open to possibilities, Leidy said.
Construction is expected to end in December 2013, and the reinstallation of the museum's entire collection is set to begin in January 2014.
The museum will have a new look inside when it reopens, from new furniture and lighting to freshly rethought gallery displays. The cafe will move to the front of the museum and open onto a garden patio.
"You talk about a transformational project," Hennessey said. "We'll look better and be more relevant than we've ever been."
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