Change of Scene: It may not have the ring of the Year of the Dragon, but it’s definitely the year of the museum renovation. As photography assumes an increasingly important role in the exhibitions and collections of many museums, many institutions are rethinking their exhibition spaces. We’ve rounded up just a fraction of the museums undergoing major transformations that impact their photography collections to give you a glimpse of the process and what lies ahead.


Harvard Art Museums

This November sees the three Harvard Art Museums – the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums – together for the first time in one new space, a dazzling Renzo Piano-designed facility. Visitors will have unprecedented opportunities to view photographs in the new space, where they will be integrated with other works on paper as well as with other holdings. The new venue will also give photographs a permanent collection space for the first time. Visitors will now have three ways to see photography: the permanent collection, where photos will be rotated every four to six months; the university galleries; and the special exhibition spaces. According to Deborah Martin Kao, chief curator of the Harvard Art Museums, the renovation allows both access for visitors as well as a chance for the museum to conceptualize how these extraordinary photography holdings can best be displayed and shared with the public. ”It’s a very happy story for photography,” sums up Kao.



This fall, iMOCA (Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art) gains a new CityWay location and a new exhibition: Richard Mosse’s Fermata, which focuses on the ongoing conflict in the Congo. Mosse uses Kodak Aerochrome, a discontinued film that registers chlorophyll in live vegetation. The exhibition, which runs though December 20, utilizes more than 5,000 feet of exhibition space at its two locations, which have expanded the space available for exhibitions by 3,000 square feet. It also allows iMOCA to add more exhibitions that are free to visitors, as well as additional education programs for children. Connected by the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, the two locations encourage people to bike and walk between them.


Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum has began an enormous renovation project to overhaul its two oldest buildings, the Eero Saarinen-designed War Memorial Center (1957) and the David Kahler-designed addition (1975), which house the museum’s collection galleries. Increased gallery space, including an entire floor dedicated to photography and media art, is among the improvements planned. The museum will dedicate the nearly 10,000 square feet of the lower level gallery for the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Art, which will offer a global array of photography, film, video installation, and media art, thus giving gravitas to the notion that moving images as well as photography are pivotal in the field of lens-based media. Now, photography, film, and video will have dedicated space for collection rotations and special exhibitions for the first time.


Whitney Museum of American Art

And let us not forget the Whitney, the preeminent museum of American art, which will relocate to its new Renzo Piano-designed home this spring. Joining the downtown trend, the new, larger building will provide a fitting home for its collection of American art, both contemporary and modern, by increasing the amount of exhibition space. The new building will include a lobby gallery, top-floor special-exhibition gallery, and two floors dedicated to the permanent collection.

Still other upcoming museum renovations that will feature new layouts, exhibition spaces, and additional space for photography galleries include: SFMOMA, which continues to have a robust exhibition schedule at different venues while the museum is under renovation….The Clark Art Institute, which is adding the new Clark Center, featuring 11,000 square feet of space for special exhibitions…The Philadelphia Museum of Art, undergoing a major transformation that will include renewed dedication to the use of digital tools…The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, which has plans for three new pavilions that will nearly double the gallery space as well as add new public facilities…and of course, in a major move, the International Center of Photography will relocate from its midtown space to a building on the Bowery – which it will own – when its lease ends next year.