The Pulitzer Arts Foundation unveiled 3,700 square feet of new gallery space May 1, tucked within the serenely introverted structure designed by Tokyo-based Tadao Ando. In 2001, the Pulitzer opened in the Grand Center arts district of St. Louis with two long wings enclosed in honed concrete embracing a shallow reflecting pool and sculpture terrace. The main gallery, which remains unaltered, captures the movement of sun through a glowing slot at one end, a low strip of windows that refract light from the pool, and indirect light that spills into the gallery from glazed openings in adjacent spaces.
Since artworks are almost always displayed in this richly refracted daylight without electric illumination, the Pulitzer provides an art-viewing experience of singular intensity and intimacy. (The entire building is only 27,000 square feet.)
Founded by curator, philanthropist, and arts patron Emily Rauh Pulitzer, the Foundation has become a draw for art lovers within and beyond St. Louis. It has steadily expanded programming, augmenting exhibitions with chamber music, dance, and other performances on the implied stage that ends a monumental stair within the main gallery. The stair descends to a sub-grade level where the new space has been carved out.
Ando, with locally based Christner as architect-of-record, replaced offices and storage, increasing display space by more than half. Though the new space lacks access to daylight, the two new gallery suites can be partitioned, enriching program possibilities even further.
The first exhibit in the reopened Foundation contrasts delicate mobiles by Alexander Calder with Minimalist yarn sculptures by Fred Sandback and works in wire, pencil lines, and shadows by Richard Tuttle. The pieces, which urge viewers to reconsider space and light, thrive in the intimate setting. They would get lost in the grand galleries of most contemporary museums.