The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute has selected Selldorf Architects to renovate its museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Renowned for its collection of French Impressionist paintings, as well as American paintings by Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and Mary Cassatt, the Clark occupies a neoclassical structure designed by American architect Daniel Perry in 1955.
Annabelle Selldorf
Photo © Frank Krems
Michael Conforti, the Clark’s director, says that the institute chose Selldorf because of the Manhattan-based firm’s experience designing art galleries and its ability to accomplish historic renovations with tasteful subtlety. Citing its renovation of a 1914 mansion for the Neue Gallerie in New York City, completed in 2001, Conforti observes, “We know we will get a seamless renovation that will harmoniously blend the old and new spaces.”

The revamped Clark will connect to a new exhibition, conference, and visitor’s center designed by Tadao Ando. Work on both structures is due to be finished in 2013. By relocating some existing services into Ando’s building, Selldorf will be able to repurpose 5,000 square feet at the Clark and thereby increase the amount of exhibition space by 40 percent—that building’s overall size, though, will likely remain unchanged at 25,000 square feet.

Of her approach to historic renovations, principal Annabelle Selldorf explains, “The task is to find the right language, an existing vocabulary that allows you to have a presence without insisting on being first in line. That means making the building seem like it was really meant to look this way. We’ll know the difference, and others might not notice. In other words, it will only get better, and it won’t look altogether different.”

RECORD recently sat down with Selldorf to hear her thoughts about museums and renovations. Click the audio file to hear more of the conversation. The slideshow contains images of both the Clark Art Institute and the Neue Gallerie.