Two days ago the Milwaukee Art Museum officially announced its Plan for the Future, including an expansion of the 1975 Kahler building, which sits beneath and to the east of the 1957 Eero Saarinen-designed War Memorial Center.
Yesterday, MAM director Dan Keegan hosted a media event at which he offered more details on the plan, which is expected to cost $25 million, including $10 million Milwaukee County will spend to repair and upgrade portions of the buildings it owns.
MAM has already raised more than $13 million of its $15 million share, Keegan told a small group of reporters.
The expansion will add 17,000 square feet to the three-building, 345,000-square foot complex.
"We feel this is high, high impact for the museum and major bang for the buck in terms of what we need to accomplish and what we’re trying to get done here," said Keegan.
Since the announcement, the merits of one highest-profile aspects of the plan – the HGA-designed facade that will replace the east face of the Kahler building, which Keegan said MAM staff calls the "East Berlin view" – has been a major point of public discussion.
"It’s as if it’s a derelict building," he said, candidly, of the current facade.
But, Keegan added, the project is really about the art.
"Over time the collection has grown tremendously," he said. "We’re now a collection of over 30,000 works of art, spanning the history of art. The collection has become fractured over time and so that’s at the core of the major changes around the reinstallation of the collection."
"The good news is that we’ve grown the collection. The bad news is it’s presentation has not come from any master plan that has been continually updated. So, a major piece of this project is to reinstall the entire collection."
Though the new space totals only 17,000 square feet and not of all that is dedicated gallery space, Keegan estimated that the changes will actually add nearly 20,000 square feet of space for the exhibition of art.
That’s because spaces that have been walled up for storage or subdivided into offices will be re-opened for the display of art. Included in that is the outdoor sculpture garden that has been off-limits for as long as I can remember. Surely, it’s been at least two decades if not considerably longer.
That leak-prone dead space – visible through windows from inside the galleries, but inaccessible – will be reclaimed as part of the galleries.
The result will be not only more, but more wisely-organized, space.
American art – currently scattered among three locations – will be brought together. A new, 5,000-square foot changing exhibits gallery will be in the added space. Works on paper and 20th century design will get permanent exhibition space. And the lower level of the expanded Kahler building will house a new Herzfeld Center for Photography and New Media.
According to Keegan, who said the new layout will open vistas that will make wayfinding more intuitive and sensible, reducing the need for directional signage, said the older Saarinen building will house the oldest art.
Meanwhile, the newer Kahler building will house more recent works, including modern and contemporary art on the first floor. Upstairs will be the Bradley Collection, American art, new European art, a new sculpture gallery overlooking the lake and offering views of the Santiago Calatrava-designed Quadracci Pavilion.
So, what about that Kahler facade?
After hearing Keegan explain some facets of the plan and pointing out some of the ways it draws subtle inspiration from Saarinen’s building, I have mixed feelings about it.
"he goal was not to try and compete with this (the Quadracci Pavilion) or to imitate this (the War Memorial Center), but rather to be respectful to both," Keegan said. "By design, it is restrained, it is minimal. It is meant to harmonize."
It will look great at night, illuminated from within, though that’s a view relatively few will see, as the facade orients out to the lake. But I think the opaque surfaces on both levels of the facade waste an opportunity for broader communication between the exterior and interior.
While more window space would force a re-think of the floor plan inside, it would afford more striking views over Lake Michigan, and would render the building more striking from the outside at night.
It’s hard to say how the building will, in the end, behave with the Quadracci Pavilion and the War Memorial Center because the exterior finish – including its color – has yet to be determined.
Architectural renderings portray it clothed in Calatrava white, but Keegan said it could be a different white or it could even take on a color more akin to the pale brown of the War Memorial. Time will tell.
Inside the museum, some work is already being removed in preparation for the changes, which will ramp up in fall, when the collections will close for 12 months. During this time the Quadracci Pavilion and its galleries will remain open.
According to Keegan, the result will be worth the inconvenience.
"Bigger is better, in this case, because we’re bursting at the seams. It doesn’t take us all the way there; we will still be pretty tight," he said, adding that he foresees the museum taking another expansion step sometime in the next quarter-century.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published Oct. 20, 2014
Hip-hop trio Clipping is headed to Milwaukee as part of the tour for its latest record, "CLPPNG," out now on Sub Pop. The three -- Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson -- will open for Busdriver on Thursday, Oct. 23 at the Cactus Club. In advance of the Milwaukee gig, we caught up with Snipes and Hutson, to ask about the new record and the whole idea of genres and the limitations they might impose from outside.
Published Oct. 20, 2014
This week, the Council of the Great City Schools hosts its 58th annual fall conference in Milwaukee, hosted by MPS, and some big names in the world of education and beyond will be on hand for the event, which runs Oct. 22-26. The conference -- "Fresh Water, Fresh Thinking in Urban Education" -- takes place at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center and will bring about 1,000 school superintendents to Milwaukee.
Published Oct. 18, 2014
It seems to always happen in a farm field. A kid sees the mother of God, a white buffalo is born, an astonishing cave full of prehistoric paintings is accidentally uncovered. That's where Wisconsin and the world stumbled upon one of the state's most stunning natural attractions, Cave of the Mounds, too, in 1939.
Published Oct. 17, 2014
This week, Karl Paloucek is one of a number of Milwaukee musicians taking part in Betty Blexrud-Strigens' Patti Smith tribute -- "Smith Uncovered" -- at Alverno College on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 8 p.m. He's also riding high after the release of his second record, "Sail," recorded over 20 years and issued by Brew City's Latest Flame imprint. As he preps his contribution to "Smith Uncovered," we asked Paloucek about "Sail" and what comes next.
Published Oct. 16, 2014
A locally produced book featuring the writings of local teens is certainly notable, but what's even more noteworthy about "Milwaukee: A Collection of Work by Local Teens," published in a small run by Hidden Color Press, is that it was also edited, designed and produced by an area teenager. Hidden Color Press is the work of 14-year-old Jack Hietpas, a student at St. Robert School in Shorewood. He started the press as a means to publish art and writing by area teens from all backgrounds.
Published Oct. 14, 2014
For a mere $40, you can get a silhouette of the Milwaukee skyline immortalized in wax. In PVC that is.
Published Oct. 13, 2014
Though Jack Pettey's name isn't the biggest graffiti in the attic at Maryland Avenue School, for some reason it -- and the date, 1946 -- jumps out at you. When I snapped some photographs, Pettey's distinctive scrawl made it into the frame and his name was etched in my memory. Last week, I snapped another photo of it. This time, Pettey himself was in the picture.
Published Oct. 9, 2014
Looking for a quick and easy getaway? Chicago's just a short, smooth train ride south and whether you're traveling with kids, as a couple or on your own, the possibilities are endless. So endless that it might seem a little daunting to plan. Don't you worry, sit back and let us do the work. Here are three quick and easy Windy City overnights that will make for memorable little getaways.
Published Oct. 8, 2014
In the same spirit as my post earlier this year listing my favorite Milwaukee pizzas, here are my go-to wings places in town, so far. I'm sure as I continue my (informal) quest, I'll find others. And, this month, we're off in search of the best wings on the West Side, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, in no particular order...
Published Oct. 8, 2014
A group of Milwaukee Public Schools officials appeared before the Common Council's Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee at City Hall Tuesday morning to offer updates on the plan to open an International Baccalaureate Middle School at the former Malcolm X Academy, 2760 N. 1st St.