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Any doubt that the Peabody Essex Museum ranks in the top tier of American art museums was erased Saturday night when Executive Director Dan Monroe announced plans for the second major expansion in a decade, fueled by a $650 million campaign.

A $200 million addition at the present museum site, which will be larger than the heralded 2003 wing designed by architect Moshe Safdie, will greatly enlarge gallery space while adding a new restaurant and roof garden.

“When we finish this project in 2016, our total gallery space will rank among the top eight or 10 American art museums,” said Monroe, also the museum’s CEO.

The PEM’s earlier expansion helped spark millions of dollars in private investment in the city and a downtown renaissance. There are similar hopes for these plans.

“For a city the size of Salem, a $200 million investment is significant and will certainly have a positive impact through the downtown and city,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said. “I’m thrilled they have the confidence in Salem’s direction ... to make this type of investment.”

The $650 million fundraising campaign is well under way. Monroe announced that $550 million has already been secured in gifts and pledges.

Unlike 2003, when the PEM had to acquire a city street and move several houses, there are no plans this time to take any land.

“We’re going to work on our existing footprint,” Monroe said.

Sections of the museum that are old and outdated will be removed along with the power plant on Charter Street. In effect, a large part of the museum will be gutted.

“In the end, it’s clear that it’s just not viable to try to renovate and restore ... buildings built, in some instances, in the 19th century ...” Monroe said.

The heart of the PEM, however, will remain.

“Obviously, East India Marine Hall will not only remain intact, but will end up having a much bigger presence,” he said.

Also remaining are a main section of the museum along the Essex Street pedestrian mall and the Safdie addition, which includes two floors of galleries, a cathedral entrance and atrium, and Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house.

There are also plans to make improvements across the street at the Phillips Library.

The museum plans to remain open throughout construction, Monroe said.

The idea behind the expansion, the executive director said, is to create more state-of-the-art galleries and other spaces so the museum can initiate and host more exhibits, showcase more of its own vast collections, and increase the number of education and public programs.

“The real driver from the standpoint of gallery space is that we have some Class A gallery space now and other gallery space that really doesn’t meet those standards and really is not ideal,” he said.

Published in News
Thursday, 14 April 2011 05:18

Queens Museum Breaks Ground On $65M Expansion

The Queens Museum broke ground Tuesday on a $65 million expansion.
The conversion of the old ice skating rink will add another 50,000 square feet of space to the museum, doubling its size.

Upon completion it will include galleries, classrooms, public event spaces, a cafe and museum store.

The museum director estimates 250,000 people drive by the Queens Museum every day on the Grand Central Parkway and don't even know the treasures it holds.

"A lot of people grew up in Queens, they don't know where we are. We're clearing the trees away -- moving the trees away. There's going to be a 220 foot long work of art on that side of the building facing the Grand Central, so you will know where the Queens Museum is," said Queens Museum Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl.

Published in News
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