Press release date: 
Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Board of Trustees of The Pierpont Morgan Library announced today that the Morgan will reopen its preeminent center for scholarly research and museum in spring 2006. Approximately one year from completion, the building has taken dramatic shape in the heart of New York, its structural steel rising from the Madison Avenue construction site, between 36th and 37th streets, and its rosy gray steel facade and glass paneling beginning to glimmer in Manhattan's spring light.

The $102-million expansion and renovation project, designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Renzo Piano, integrates three existing landmark buildings with three intimately scaled pavilions constructed of faceted steel panels and glass to create an accessible and inviting campus setting. The modest size of the new buildings—with more than 50 percent of the square footage located below ground—is respectful of the Morgan's traditional architecture and the surrounding neighborhood. The abundant use of highly transparent low-iron glass to enclose the central court and connect the buildings, seamlessly joining the old and the new, provides many views both in and out of the 151,000-square-foot campus.

The Morgan project will be Renzo Piano's first New York commission to be completed. It adds 75,000 square feet, increasing Morgan programming space by about one third, and features a new welcoming entrance on Madison Avenue, a spacious central court that serves as a gathering place in the spirit of an Italian piazza, improved internal circulation, new and renovated galleries, a 280-seat modern performance hall to better accommodate the Morgan's renowned musical arts and other programming, two cafés and a shop, a naturally lit Reading Room crowning the new Madison Avenue building, and much needed space for collections storage.

The expansion and enhancement of exhibition space further realizes the Morgan's dual purpose as a research library and museum. The increased exhibition space will enable the public to rediscover the Morgan's world-class collection of more than 350,000 objects. The collection represents the finest, rarest, and most beautiful examples of master drawings and prints from the past five centuries, medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts, literary, historical, and music manuscripts, and rare printed books.

Collection highlights that will be on view as part of the opening include the finest group of Rembrandt etchings in the United States, Albrecht Dürer's Adam and Eve, William Blake's Book of Job, drawings by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, astronomical calculations signed by Galileo, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, the sole surviving manuscript of Milton's Paradise Lost, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Haffner" Symphony, an early copyist's manuscript of George Frederic Handel's Messiah, a Gutenberg Bible, the Lindau Gospels, and one of the first printed copies of the Declaration of Independence.

Another integral component of the project is the preservation of the Morgan's three historic buildings, including the original 1906 American Renaissance–style library by Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White, the nineteenth-century townhouse now known as the Morgan House, and the 1928 Annex designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris, which served as the Morgan Library's main entrance and will be returned to its original size.

"Renzo Piano's plan accomplishes our programmatic and aesthetic goals brilliantly and does so with a remarkable subtlety and sensibility," said Charles Pierce, Director, the Morgan Library. "The new structures are distinctly modern, yet consonant with the Morgan's rich and particular ethos."

S. Parker Gilbert, President of the Board of Trustees, noted, "Pierpont Morgan was directly involved in the formation of such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. Yet the Library that bears his name best represents his unique and personal legacy to the American people. It has been gratifying to see the Library's tremendous growth, particularly over the past decade. This growth has made more evident the ways in which we have outgrown our facilities and that we must improve certain existing spaces and overall access."


Begun in 2003, the expansion and renovation project designed by Renzo Piano, with the New York–based Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLC serving as the local architectural firm, enables the Morgan to better serve its growing scholarly and public audiences and better store its world-class collections.

"The new design preserves the Morgan Library's unique charm and intimate scale. The Morgan will be much better and more public, with expanded and enhanced exhibition space, a new underground auditorium, and an elegant naturally lit reading room," said Renzo Piano. "We chose steel and extra-wide clear glass, which is almost like crystal, for the Morgan. These are honest materials that create the right sense of strength and clarity between old and new, as well as a sense of transparency in the center of the institution that opens the campus up to the street."

The design creates three modestly scaled pavilions facing 36th Street, 37th Street, and Madison Avenue, the largest of which will form the center of the campus and provide the new, more accessible entrance on Madison Avenue. The smallest, a 20 x 20 x 20 foot "cube" gallery inspired by Renaissance chambers Piano encountered in Italy, is designed to serve as an essential device in the scheme of the three new structures in combination with the three landmarks. For the opening, some of the Morgan's greatest decorative arts treasures will be displayed in the filtered natural light of "the cube."

The pavilions are constructed of faceted steel panels and glass, with the steel coated in a rose-hued, off-white paint (making a subtle nod to the Tennessee Pink marble of the McKim Building and Annex). The design also features high-transparency low-iron glass and baffled roof systems for filtered natural light.

The glass walls of the main pavilion at the south and east ends of the new courtyard will enable the public to see more of the McKim Building, and new landscaping surrounding the Morgan will enhance its parklike Murray Hill setting, complementing the trees located in the inner court. There will be two new cafés, one in the interior courtyard "piazza" and the other in a more formal setting in the former Morgan family dining room.

New galleries and interpretive installations, some of which will be interactive, will create many more opportunities for adults, families, and schoolchildren to participate in programs devoted exclusively to the permanent collection. Additional galleries will provide more space for the presentation of major loan exhibitions of master drawings, rare books, and original manuscripts. The Morgan has been an increasingly important venue for such exhibitions of holdings from internationally renowned private and public collections. The new gallery space will be located in both the new central pavilion and in the former Reading Room space in the Annex, effectively doubling the Morgan's overall exhibition space.

Located below ground, the new performance hall with warm cherrywood-faceted ceiling and walls, will feature superior acoustics and raked seating, making it a significant addition to New York concert venues as well as an elegant setting for dramatic readings, lectures, and other live performances.

The new Reading Room will maintain the subtle charm and intimacy of the former facility located in the Annex, but it also will be outfitted with new technology and many more workstations to meet the needs of modern researchers. Naturally lit from above, its translucent roof structure will enable scholars to examine the Morgan's holdings in the ideal environment for studying manuscripts and works on paper.

The Morgan's collections will be stored underground in a state-of-the-art vault nestled in carved out Manhattan schist and equipped with modern climate control and security systems.

Inaugural Exhibitions

The Morgan's inaugural exhibitions will demonstrate the nature and the scope of the permanent collections with a display of some 300 objects in a new and enhanced setting that showcases the superlative qualities of the works.

The drawings portion of the exhibition will comprise nearly 100 drawings from the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries, selected for their outstanding quality and art historical significance. Large sections of the show will be dedicated to Italian, French, Netherlandish, Dutch and Flemish drawings and smaller contingents of works by British, Spanish, and German artists. Most of the works in the exhibition will be presented by school. A large concluding section will consist of modern drawings by late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists. Among artists represented will be Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Watteau, Gainsborough, Blake, Goya, Cézanne, and Pollock.

The Morgan Library is also well known for the quality, range, and importance of its collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, and the exhibition will include approximately three dozen examples representing the core of manuscripts on which that reputation is based. Arranged chronologically, the display will form a concise history of manuscript illumination, or what could be called the "age of vellum," sandwiched between that of papyrus and paper. Examples will represent the main periods of art history, starting with the Carolingian and continuing with the Ottonian, Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance. They will include the Reims Gospel Book, the Morgan's finest Carolingian manuscript, written in gold and made about 860 at the Abbey of St. Remi in Reims; the Mont-Saint-Michel Sacramentary, the most lavishly illuminated surviving manuscript from the French island abbey; the Berthold Sacramentary, possibly the finest and most luxurious thirteenth-century manuscript produced in Germany; the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, painted about 1440 by the artist known as the Cleves Master and regarded as the most gifted and original artist of the "golden age" of Dutch manuscript painting; and the Farnese Hours, completed in 1546, after nine years of work by the great illuminator Giulio Clovio and regarded as the last great Italian manuscript.

Noteworthy printed books have been selected for their rarity, original artwork, special bindings, or manuscript additions showing the author at work. Included will be one of the Morgan's three Gutenberg Bibles; the only complete copy in America of the first edition of the Hebrew Bible, printed in 1488; the only existing complete copy of Sir Thomas Malory's La morte d'Arthur, printed by William Caxton in 1485; a copy of T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats annotated by the author; and Mary Shelley's own copy of Frankenstein, with her autograph notes and revisions.

The portion of the exhibition devoted to literary and historical manuscripts will be a selection of complete manuscripts and working drafts of poetry and prose, correspondence, journals, and other documents of major British, American, and European authors, artists, scientists, and historical figures from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries. With particular attention to what manuscripts reveal about the creative process, the exhibition will include significant representation of John Milton, Charlotte Brontë, Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Steinbeck, and Muriel Spark.

From the Morgan's collection of music manuscripts, items have been selected to show the breadth and depth of the Library's music holdings. Included will be Beethoven's sketches for the "Emperor" concerto, Mozart's manuscript of the "Haffner" Symphony, Glenn Gould's annotated copy of Bach's Goldberg Variations, and John Cage's manuscript for Dances for Prepared Pianos.

Pierpont Morgan began collecting ancient Mesopotamian cylinder seals as early as 1885, and the Morgan has acquired examples from all the major historic periods and their corresponding artistic styles. Items selected for the exhibition will illustrate the development of the iconography of power as depicted on the cylinder seals from their first use in the emerging temple cities of the late fourth millennium B.C. through to the great empires of the first millennium B.C.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Renzo Piano was born into a family of builders in Genoa, Italy, in 1937. He graduated from the School of Architecture at Milan Polytechnic in 1964. Over the course of his studies, he worked with Franco Albini and was a highly engaged visitor to his father's building sites. He was affiliated with Louis I. Kahn in Philadelphia and Z. S. Makowsky in London from 1965 to 1970. During this period he met Jean Prouvé, who was to have a profound influence on his architecture. His collaboration with Richard Rogers dates from 1971 (Piano and Rogers), with Peter Rice from 1977 (Atelier Piano & Rice), and he currently has offices in Genoa and Paris under the name Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

The prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, awarded to Piano in 1998, is among the many honors he has received. Selected major projects include the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1977, with Richard Rogers), the Menil Collection, Houston (1986), the Lingotto Factory restoration in Turin, Italy (1994), the Kansai International Airport, Osaka (1994), the Museum of the Beyeler Foundation, Basel (1998), the Jean Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center, Nouméa, New Caledonia (1998), and the Potsdamer Platz reconstruction, Berlin (1999). Along with the Morgan Library, his current projects include the London Bridge Tower, the New York Times Headquarters Building, and expansions of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Columbia University campus, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

About the Morgan

A complex of buildings in the heart of New York City, the Morgan Library began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913), one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States, and is now a museum, independent research library, musical and performing arts venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. Nearly a century after its founding, the Morgan maintains a unique position in the cultural life of New York City and is considered one of its greatest treasures. With the reopening of its new campus, the Morgan reaffirms its role as a preeminent repository for the history, art, and literature of Western civilization from 4000 B.C. to the twentieth century.