The Smithsonian American Art Museum announced today a $5.4 million gift from David M. Rubenstein for the renovation of its Renwick Gallery. The gift completes the private fundraising goal for the capital renovation project.
Rubenstein is known as a philanthropist with a passion for American history. His gift to support the renovation of the Renwick Gallery is the latest in a series of gifts to restore important American landmarks, such as the Washington Monument, the National Archives and Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, Va.
“I am delighted to have the support of David Rubenstein for the Renwick Gallery,” said Betsy Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “The passion David brings to preserving great landmarks of American history is inspiring. His generous gift guarantees that the future of this historic landmark as a premier showcase for American ingenuity and creativity will continue for generations to come.”
In recognition of this generous gift, the Renwick Gallery’s Grand Salon will be named in honor of Rubenstein.
“I am honored to help with restoration of the Renwick, and I congratulate Betsy Broun on completing this important undertaking,” said Rubenstein.
The building, designed by James Renwick Jr. in 1859, was the first purpose-built art museum in America. The words “Dedicated to Art” are inscribed above the Renwick Gallery’s front entry. The building was called the “American Louvre” when it first opened, and it symbolized the nation’s aspirations in the cultural arena, the hallmark of every great civilization.
In 1972, the National Historic Landmark building became the home of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s craft and decorative art program. The renovation, currently underway, is the first comprehensive renewal of the building in 45 years. It includes completely renewed infrastructure and enhanced historic features and other upgrades to the historic building that will make it a 21st-century destination attraction. Funding for the renovation project, a 50-50 public-private partnership, totals $30 million.
Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, has been a member of the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents since 2009. Additional major gifts from private donors to support the renovation come from The Bresler Foundation Inc., Hacker and Kitty Caldwell, Shelia Duignan and Mike Wilkins, Wendy and Jerry H. Labowitz, Debbie Frank Petersen, the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation, Ted Slavin, The Brown Foundation Inc. of Houston, the Windgate Charitable Foundation, Robert and Arlene Kogod and an anonymous donor. The renovation also is supported by the Save America’s Treasures program, administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
Westlake Reed Leskosky, based in Cleveland with offices in Washington, D.C., is the lead architectural design and engineering firm for this major renovation and enhancement. Consigli Construction Co. Inc., based in Milford, Mass., is the general construction contractor. Plans for renovating the 34,000-square-foot masonry structure include replacement of all heating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing and fire-suppression systems as well as upgrades to security, phone and data communication systems. Wireless access will be installed throughout the building. The original window configuration will be re-created, two vaulted ceilings in the second floor galleries will be restored and the basement will be reconfigured for improved staff offices and workshops.
The museum closed to the public Dec. 9, 2013; staff and the collections vacated the building earlier this year. Construction is expected to be completed in 14 months.
About the Renwick Gallery’s Building
The Renwick Gallery is one of the most elegant examples of Second Empire architecture in the U.S. The building is named for its architect, James Renwick Jr., who also designed the Smithsonian’s “Castle” and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. It was built originally as a public museum for William Corcoran’s private art collection. The Renwick Gallery is the third-oldest Smithsonian building.
In 1956, Congress proposed that the building be razed. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy led the campaign to save the Renwick Gallery as part of her plan to restore Lafayette Square, and in 1965,
S. Dillon Ripley, then secretary of the Smithsonian, met with President Lyndon Johnson to request that the gallery be turned over to the Smithsonian. The Renwick was subsequently dedicated “for use as a gallery of art, crafts and design.” The Renwick was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, and in 1971 was designated a National Historic Landmark building in the Lafayette Square Historic District. The Renwick Gallery is located steps from the White House in the heart of historic federal Washington.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with artworks in all media spanning more than three centuries. Its National Historic Landmark building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Follow the museum on , YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, , Flickr, Pinterest, iTunes U and ArtBabble. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Website: americanart.si.edu.