The Renwick Gallery
Photography: Joshua Yetman

Washington DC’s storied Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) opens its doors today following a two-year revamp.

Design firm Westlake Reed Leskosky refreshed the 1874 building – America’s first ever purpose-built art museum – breathing new life into the ‘American Louvre’, as it has been dubbed.

Smithsonian director Betsy Broun says: ‘The original legislation states that the building is intended to “encourage American genius” and the words “Dedicated to Art” are prominently inscribed above the entrance.

‘We are delighted to renew that commitment through this renovation, which will allow us to continue showcasing the best and most innovative American art for the next half-century.’

Photography: Ron Blunt
Photo: Ron Blunt

In its redesign, Westlake Reed Leskosky opened up two previously concealed ceiling vaults and restored them to their original 19th-century state. The studio also refurbished the 40ft high Grand Salon and introduced a lighter colour palette to the gallery rooms.

French architect Odile Decq has created a new red carpet for the building’s grand staircase and metalsmith Marc Mairoana designed bespoke furnishings for the lobby.

Named after original architect James Renwick Jr, the museum kickstarts the new chapter in its life with an exhibition called Wonder, comprising room-sized immersive installations by nine contemporary artists that bring the restored building to life. Tara Donovan, Leo Villareal and Janet Echelman were among the nine selected for the inaugural showcase.

Adds Broun: ‘Wonder rededicates this landmark museum to the future of art.’



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