A new garden court cafe, publication sales gallery, 150-seat projection room/auditorium and through passageway have opened on the ground floor in the National Gallery of Art's original (west) building.
The new facilities are part of the $16.7 million remodeling of more than 40,000 square feet on the ground floor (opening onto Pennsylvania Avenue) of the old building into 44 new gallery spaces. The new galleries are scheduled to open to the public Feb. 3.
They will constitute a museum-in-a-museum of 2,000 prints, drawings, paintings, small sculptures and decorative arts, according to David Scott, who has been planning the changes since 1972.
When work is complete, visitors will -- for the first time since the museum was built in 1941 -- be able to walk the length of the ground floor, from Fourth Street through to the reopened Seventh Street entrance. Kress Collection Renaissance bronzes, the Chinese porcelains and the Widener Collection, packed away for 12 years, will be displayed. The Widener Collection includes the Chalice of Abbot Suger of St. Denis, c. 1140, used in the coronation of Marie Antoinette, the Mazarin Tapestry and a magnificent selection of 18 pieces of court furniture. The 14 prints and drawings galleries will constitute a historical survey of many of the National Gallery's holdings never seen before. A treasury will hold European jewels and rock crystals.