Renwick Gallery to undergo renovation

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 7:43 PM

The Renwick Gallery, a national center for American crafts and decorative arts, will close in 2013 for an extensive renovation.

"The last renovation was in 1972, so we are coming up on the 40th anniversary of the pipes and wiring," said Elizabeth Broun, the director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which oversees the Renwick.

The closing will take place after "40 Under 40: Craft Futures," an exhibition of young artists, finishes in February 2013. Broun predicted Tuesday that the work would take about a year.

"It makes sense to shut down. It's simpler and cheaper. We can transfer the six people on the staff and store the collection," Broun said.

The Renwick, a branch of the Smithsonian Institution, sits in the physical arc of the White House, next door to Blair House on Pennsylvania Avenue. The building was completed in 1874. A National Historic Landmark, the Renwick was designed by James Renwick Jr. in the ornate Second Empire-style. "He was inspired by the then-new addition to Louvre," Broun said.

Earlier this week, the Renwick received a grant of $335,000 from the Save America's Treasures program to support the renovation. The work will be financed by both public and private funds, Broun said.

"This is such a point of honor for the Renwick," Broun said of the federal prize. "It recognizes that this building stood for Americans wanting to be acknowledged for the arts. People were starting to worry that we were a commercial nation but not saying much about the arts. . . . Now we want to make it great for the 21st century."

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