Saint Louis Art Museum debuts East Building on June 29

Tuesday June 25, 2013

By Mark

It’s C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-I-O-N time in St. Louis this weekend!

The Saint Louis Art Museum is throwing a major two-day party to mark the grand opening of its new East Building and it’s going to be a hum-dinger!

Entertainment will showcase St. Louis’ diverse ethnic culture and will include, among other things, traditional Korean drummers, Native American dancers and performances by the Black Rep, Muny Teens, the Shakespeare Squadron, the DisAbility Project and Trombones of the St. Louis Symphony.

Best of all, in keeping with the inscription “Dedicated to Art and Free to All” carved in stone above the museum’s main entrance, the event is free!

Not only will visitors be able to tour the 21 galleries in the new building, but they can also join in the museum’s A World of Art Festival with free hands-on art projects, vendors, food booths and live entertainment all weekend long. The museum will have extended hours on Saturday.

In addition, the Art Museum, normally closed on Mondays, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, July 1 to give visitors another opportunity to enjoy the new addition as well as the newly-installed galleries in the main building. The new building will feature selections from the museum’s permanent collection that had been in storage and the Post-War German Art in the Collection, a free exhibition.

The festivities kick off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:30 a.m., Saturday at the East Building Entry Plaza. Following the ceremony, attendees will have the opportunity to be among the first to explore the new East Building.

The World of Art outdoor activities take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday (the museum itself will be open until 10 p.m. on Saturday and opens at 10 a.m. on Sunday) on the museum campus including the East Parking Lot, Art Hill Plaza and Fine Arts Drive.

Participating organizations include:

Saturday’s stage lineup:

Come early and stay late on Saturday when the Museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The celebration continues into the evening with an opening night celebration from 7 to 10 p.m. Nicholas Payton and the Phil Dunlap Quartet, with appearances by Willie Akins and Brian Owens, will perform. The event is presented in partnership with Jazz St. Louis.

Visitors can enjoy another full day at World of Art from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday (the museum opens at 10 a.m. on Sunday).

Sunday’s stage lineup includes:

The new building’s sleek contemporary look is a counterpoint to renowned American architect Cass Gilbert’s neo-classical design. The main building, originally part of the Palace of Fine Arts at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World’s Fair), was the only building from the Fair designed to be a permanent structure.

In 2004, exactly 100 years after the Fair when the main building opened, the Museum’s Board of Commissioners appointed an Architectural Selection Advisory Committee to oversee the selection of an architect for the museum’s expansion.

Award-winning architect Sir David Chipperfield designed the building with technical assistance from the St. Louis-based HOK.

The 200,000-square-foot expansion adds 30 percent more gallery and public space. The new galleries and public spaces feature skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows for a light and airy effect. A new Grand Stair will provide a seamless transition between the main and lower-level galleries.

The East Building’s inaugural exhibitions will feature 230 works from the Art Museum’s permanent collection, 55 of which have not been on view for at least 20 years.

The expansion also allowed for the renovation and reinstallation of exhibits in the iconic 1904

building. Of the more than 1,450 works of art reinstalled in 68 galleries, approximately a third have not been on view for at least 20 years.

Among the reinstalled galleries: Native American and Ancient American Art, African Art, Korean Art, Islamic Art, and a sequence of galleries for European painting and sculpture spanning from the Renaissance to the mid-20th century.

You can learn more about the new building and its architect here.

Before you go, check out these tips for a smooth grand opening experience:

  • Weather: In case of rain, some outdoor activities may be limited or suspended until the weather clears.
  • Traffic: Fine Arts Drive will be closed from the bottom of Art Hill at Lagoon Drive to the intersection with Government Drive near the Zoo on the east on both Saturday and Sunday. Traffic will not be allowed onto Fine Arts Drive from Government Drive.
  • Parking: Museum officials recommend entering Forest Park via Skinker from I-64/40 or Forest Park Parkway. Parking throughout Forest Park will be very limited. The museum’s new 300-vehicle, underground parking garage will not open until July 1. Fee for parking there will be $15.
  • Getting around: Use Metro’s Forest Park Trolley which will stop at Fine Arts and Government drives.
  • Finding your way at the Museum: Staff and volunteers will be on hand to help visitors find what they are looking for whether it’s a restroom or a favorite work of art. Visitors who want to tour the new East Building should enter from Fine Arts Drive through the East Building doors.
  • Food: The new Panorama restaurant with sweeping views of the park will not open for regular business until July 1 (you can make reservations online or by calling 314-655-5490). However, the Museum Cafe will be open throughout the weekend (no reservations taken for those days) and food vendors will be selling on the east parking lot.
  • More info: For updates, check the Art Museum website or follow the Art Museum on Facebook.

Guest Blogger Kathie Sutin a freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri contributed this blog.