Carter undergoing renovation: Museum will return to Philip Johnson’s original concept

Robert Francis

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art will undergo a renovation early next year that will recreate architect Philip Johnson’s original design of the museum’s façade. The renovations will begin Feb. 2 and last about four months. The museum will remain open during the renovation, but some galleries will be inaccessible. All galleries are scheduled to reopen in June. The glass façade will receive new glass panels designed to maximize control of the amount of light that enters the museum, making the current use of shades unnecessary. Renovated air handlers in the main gallery and new air handlers in the upstairs galleries will also contribute to a more controlled environment. Finally, the revolving front door will be replaced with a new entryway so that all visitors, especially those with strollers and wheelchairs, can easily enter the museum. During construction, museum visitors will enter and exit the building from Lancaster Avenue.

“Our goal is to create a superior environment for art and visitors,” said Amon Carter Director Andrew J. Walker. “With this renovation, we are also going ‘back to our roots’ by recreating Philip Johnson’s original design of the museum’s front façade. A renovation in the 1990s changed his design of the main entrance by adding more glass panes and a revolving door. With this update, we are returning to his original concept with fewer glass panes while incorporating better glass technology to protect the collection from ultraviolet light. This is better for the art, better for our visitors and a return to the architect’s original intent.” Johnson was hired by the Amon G. Carter Foundation to design the new museum in 1958. Construction began the next year with primary materials consisting of Cordovan shellstone from a quarry near Austin, pink and gray granite from Maine, Burmese teak and extruded bronze. As part of the renovation, the museum’s main gallery will be transformed into more of a community gathering place, said Walker. “These are the first steps in transforming our entire footprint into an interactive space for all audiences,” he said. “We will ask for the community’s input on this, so stay tuned for more details.” The areas to be closed from Feb. 2 through June will include the front galleries on both the first floor and the mezzanine level, the special exhibition galleries on the second floor, the front entrance and all outdoor grounds, including the parking lot, plaza, portico and the area near the Henry Moore sculpture.

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“The safety of our collection and visitors is of utmost priority, and both will be protected by the partial closure of the building and grounds,” Walker said. “Construction is never without some inconveniences, but we are working to minimize them. The permanent collection will remain on view during this time, and most of the public’s favorite paintings and sculptures will remain accessible.” The museum’s collection will be hung throughout the open galleries. There will be no special exhibition in the spring, though the museum is presenting four permanent collection installations of artworks not typically on view. These are: Audubon’s Beasts (Jan. 15–Aug. 2); American Still Life (Feb. 7–Aug. 2); Like Father Like Son: Edward and Brett Weston (Feb. 14–Aug. 23); and Remington and Russell (Feb. 21–June 2). Also on view will be Lone Star Portraits through May 17.