The renovated space will include two sky-lit interior Tower Galleries and an outdoor sculpture terrace overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue. The two new galleries will house modern art from the permanent collection, including a possible Rothko room, said Deborah Ziska, a spokeswoman for the National Gallery.
The galleries are at once necessary and aspirational: While the museum can fill the additional space, officials hope the expanded capacity will inspire future donations to the permanent collection.
The $30 million for the project is being donated by a group of well-known Washington philanthropists who were approached by the museum: National Gallery President Victoria Sant and her husband, Roger; board member Mitchell Rales and his wife, Emily; and David Rubenstein, co-chief executive of the Carlyle Group, the D.C.-based private-equity firm. At press time, the gallery had not released information on individual donations. According to the museum’s federal tax filings, this marks one of the largest gifts from private donors in a decade.
The group has made several high-profile contributions in the past year. Victoria and Roger Sant — she has been the museum’s president since 2003; he is a Smithsonian Regent — gave $10 million to the National Museum of Natural History in June to endow its director’s post.
Mitchell Rales serves on the National Gallery and Hirshhorn Museum boards and displays his personal collection at Glenstone museum in Potomac. National Gallery Director Earl A. Powell III called Rales’s collection of works from the post-World War II era “one of the world’s most important.” Last year, the philanthropist announced that he planned to open a gallery the size of the East Building.
Rubenstein’s philanthropic efforts spurred a jaw-dropping announcement last month in which the Kennedy Center said he had donated $50 million for an expansion, the largest financial gift to the center in its history. Rubenstein has been vocal about the need for what he calls “patriotic philanthropy,” or giving to museums, organizations and landmarks that are partially funded by the federal government. The National Gallery certainly falls into this category, receiving the majority of its operating revenue from government grants each year. According to federal tax filings, government grants and contributions to the National Gallery doubled from 2001 to 2011.
In a statement, Powell said of the upcoming expansion: “This gift to the nation by these generous donors will enable us to exhibit more art from our ever-growing modern collection in spaces that will be at once spacious, airy and contemplative.”