After 20 years, Newark Museum to reopen its main entrance

NEWARK -- In 1997, the Newark Museum closed its main entrance to keep temperature and humidity fluctuations from harming centuries-old paintings in the acclaimed exhibition, Crowning Glory: Images of the Virgin in the Arts of Portugal.

But while that show is long gone, the protective measure has remained in place and the double doors on Washington Street kept locked, and for 20 years the public has entered the museum through a side entrance by the parking lot.

The situation has been handy enough for visitors driving in from the suburbs, but uninviting to foot traffic and hardly conducive to the kinds of rendezvous like those on, say, the steps of Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Now, with the streets surrounding New Jersey's largest art collection increasingly buzzing with life, the Newark Museum is throwing open its main doors to the public once again.

As part of a $5.5 million plan to expand exhibition space for the museum's extensive collection of African art while enhancing visitors' arrival experience, museum officials announced this week that the Washington Street entrance will reopen Nov. 3.

"We see all around us how the neighborhood is changing quickly to accommodate its renewed development and growth," Newark Museum Director and CEO Steven Kern said in a statement. "With this move, the Newark Museum is poised to reaffirm its role as both cultural and business anchor in the community. With the doors open, the Museum will project neighborhood vitality, stability and security." 

The project also includes a terrace on Washington Street at the base of the main entrance.

The beaux arts main building was designed by Jarvis Hunt and constructed in 1926 with funds from Louis Bamberger, the Newark department store mogul. Hunt had also designed Bamberger's flagship store in Newark.

The museum includes other structures that have been incorporated since then, including the adjacent former YMCA, where the public now enters the museum, and the John Ballantine House, former home of the Newark beer baron. 

Architect Michael Graves worked on the museum's later expansion projects, including the side entrance now used by the public.

A spokesman for Mayor Ras Baraka called the main entrance's reopening, "another milestone in the renaissance of Newark."

"This is one of the city's classic buildings," said the spokesman, Frank Baraff. "It's regrettable that the entrance has been closed for so long. But it's exciting that it will be open once again, and the people of Newark will have a fitting gateway to the outstanding collections within."

Those include works of American, decorative and contemporary art, as well as collections of Asian, and Central, South and Native American art, and art of the ancient world.

The museum is known for its Arts of Global Africa collection, and the project will include a new special exhibition space of more than 5,000 square feet, with wood floors, new ceilings and walls to accommodate major shows.

A lift will be installed in the museum's Engelhard Court, making it accessible to all visitors, and a ramp will be installed at the front entrance.

Funding for the $5.5 million came from sources including NEH, The MCJ Amelior Foundation and the Sagner Family Foundation.

Visitors may follow the museum on Facebook, on Twitter or at newarkmuseum.org.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment