October 17, 2011

Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University
The David A. and Rochelle Hirsch Lecture Lobby in the new wing of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. Photo by Robert Barker,
University Photography.

On Saturday, October 15, 2011, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University opened renovated spaces in its landmark I. M. Pei building and a 16,000 square-foot extension inspired by Pei’s original museum plan, designed by the original architect-in-charge, John L. Sullivan III (Cornell Class of ’62) of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects LLP.

“The mission of the new wing is to serve the collection and the public by inviting our visitors to use more of the collection more intimately and in new ways,” said Frank Robinson, the Richard J. Schwartz Director of the Johnson Museum from 1992 to 2011. Stephanie Wiles of Oberlin College’s Allen Memorial Art Museum was recently named as the next director of the Johnson.

The wing includes a dedicated 150-seat lecture room, a workshop studio, new galleries, art storage, and office space. A Japanese garden designed by landscape architect Marc Peter Keane (Cornell Class of ’79) is being installed on the west side of the wing.

Several areas of the existing 61,000 square-foot building have undergone concurrent renovations. The fifth-floor galleries of Asian art, also known for 360-degree views of Ithaca, are now reconfigured with 50 percent more square footage of gallery space, allowing for displays devoted to more Asian cultures and time periods. Additional spaces are being renovated to create a photography study/storage space and a visible storage gallery.

Since it opened in 1973, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University has welcomed over two million visitors, its collection has grown to over 35,000 works of art, and the number of its education programs has tripled. It is the only full-service art museum within a sixty-mile radius and houses one of the finest collections in upstate New York, particularly in terms of Asian art.

The 22 million USD project has been funded by government and foundation grants, including grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Arts, challenge grants from Kresge Foundation of Michigan and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and private gifts.

NEH Chair Bruce Cole noted in his 2006 award letter, “[Evaluators] praised the Museum’s programming overall…. The new wing was deemed a much-needed and imaginative response to the academic demands on the Museum, and is appropriately adapted to the Museum’s landmark building.”

The Johnson Museum has a permanent collection of over 35,000 works of art from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. The museum building was designed by I. M. Pei. Funds for the building were donated by Cornell alumnus Herbert F. Johnson, late president and chairman of S C Johnson. The building opened in 1973.

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, located on the campus of Cornell University, is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, please call 607 255-6464. Visit the Museum’s website at The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art is a member of Ithaca’s Discovery Trail:

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