Chazen Museum of Art


The Chazen Museum of Art consists of two buildings: the 90,000-square-foot Conrad A. Elvehjem building, designed by the notable Chicago architect Harry Weese and opened in 1970, and the new 86,000-square-foot expansion designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates of Boston that opened in October, 2011. The buildings are joined by a third-floor bridge that echoes the stonework and strong lines of the existing architecture, creating a contiguous façade as well as a unified interior gallery plan. The bridge is itself a gallery, and its north face is a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that offers dramatic lake views. The addition reflects elements of Weese’s original 1968 design with a limestone-clad exterior and copper roof and trim that mimic the aesthetics and materials of the existing building. The overall design vision creates a world-class museum at the gateway to the east campus arts district.

The majority of the museum's public space is dedicated to the display of the permanent collection. Third-floor galleries range from ancient art through 20th-century European and American in the Elvehjem Building, and 20th-century European and American Modernism through 21st-century internationalism, as well as galleries focused in Asian and African in the new building. Throughout the buildings' third floors are niche galleries that focus on a specialty subcollections like Native American baskets, contemporary Japanese ceramics, Lalique glass, medallic art, American and British ceramics, and Chinese export porcelain. A floor plan of the galleries is available here.

The Elvehjem Building houses the Chazen Museum of Art, Kohler Art Library, the Department of Art History. Auditoria and seminar rooms are on the lower level. Paige Court is a spacious and beautiful marble-walled second-floor space used for the display of art, as a site for special temporary installations, and for public events. The Oscar F. and Louise Greiner Mayer Gallery, commonly referred to as the Mayer Gallery, is an intimate space traditionally used for temporary exhibitions, mostly of works on paper.

The Chazen Museum of Art building has an elegant two-story, glass-walled lobby to welcome and serve visitors, as well as three new dedicated temporary exhibition spaces: the Pleasant T. Rowland Galleries on the ground floor and the Leslie and Johanna Garfield Gallery on the 2nd floor. A new 160-seat auditorium, just off the lobby, is equipped for film and video screenings as well as lectures. A lower-level art studio classroom will be used for special art classes. The Museum Shop and the Print Study Room have larger, newly designed spaces, and there is also a new Objects Study Room. The Print and Objects study rooms are also available by appointment for hands-on access and direct examination of artworks. Chazen Museum Study Rooms Policy and Procedures

Additional building features include facilities for expanded tours and educational programming, technological upgrades in galleries that allow for the showing of video and film art, copper-clad north-facing light monitors that filter damaging ultraviolet rays and allow natural light in the galleries, a limestone "carpet" that runs from the pedestrian mall into the lobby and up the back wall, and a magnificent lobby curtain designed by textile artist Petra Blaisse.

Image: © Anton Grassl/Esto, 2011

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Chazen Museum of Art, 750 University Ave., Madison, WI

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