Spencer Museum of Art Plans Expansion

The internationally renowned architectural firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners (formerly I. M. Pei & Partners) has been contracted to produce a phased master planning document for the future expansion of the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas.

“A planning document developed by this highly respected firm will articulate the new evolving vision of the Spencer Museum of Art,” said Saralyn Reece Hardy, museum director. “The Spencer is a leader among university art museums whose central educational role and innovative programs require future facility expansion.”

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners has designed 20 museums since its founding in 1955, among them the Grand Louvre, Paris; Musée d’art Modern, Luxembourg; the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Charles Shipman Payson Building, Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine.

Yvonne Szeto, lead designer for the architectural team, will meet with museum staff during the next few months, beginning this week.

Szeto said that the Spencer project was inspired by the possibility of designing a museum expansion that would allow art to be enjoyed in the context of nature, given the proximity of the Spencer to historic Marvin Grove on the KU campus. The firm also embraces the museum’s vision of enhanced multidisciplinary teaching and research made possible through the integration of traditional galleries and new flexible, creative and innovative spaces within an ecologically sustainable facility.

The Spencer’s collection has grown considerably since 1978, when it numbered about 20,000 objects, to approximately 36,000 today. An enlarged facility will allow the Spencer to house the recently added collection of art and cultural objects of the Americas, Africa and Oceania (currently housed in Spooner Hall).

The founding gift that created an art museum at the university came in 1917 when Sallie Casey Thayer of Kansas City offered her collection of nearly 7,500 art objects. Especially deep in European and Asian works, Thayer’s collection includes Japanese prints; Asian ceramics; European, Asian and American decorative arts; American Indian works; Coptic textiles, American samplers and Winslow Homer watercolors, among many other artworks.

Beginning in 1926, the Thayer collection was housed in Spooner Hall, a Neo-Romanesque building located near the Spencer on the Lawrence campus’ central boulevard.

By the late 1960s, the museum had outgrown its quarters in Spooner Hall. Helen Foresman Spencer, another Kansas City collector and patron of the arts, made a gift of $4.6 million that funded construction of the current museum. This building opened in 1978 and incorporates the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, the Kress Foundation Department of Art History and the Murphy Library of Art and Architecture, which remain a part of the museum today.

This structure, built in 1978 of Indiana limestone, was designed by Kansas City architect Robert E. Jenks.

The museum has benefitted from major gifts of old master paintings from the Kress Foundation; a highly significant collection of pop art from the estate of the art critic Gene Swenson; old master prints from the Max Kade Foundation and the collection of John and Ann Talleur; magazine art from Esquire Magazine (ranging from photographic work by Diane Arbus to pinup art by Alberto Vargas); and recent gifts from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts Inc. and 50 works from the Herb and Dorothy Vogel Collection.

www.spencerart.ku.edu

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