Press release date: 
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Morgan Library—closed for almost three years while undergoing a major expansion—announced it will reopen to the public on April 29, 2006.

The $102-million building project, designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Renzo Piano, is the largest in the Morgan Library's history. It is the architect's first completed commission in New York and provides the museum and center for scholarly research with double the exhibition space for its world-renowned collections.

The Morgan will mark the occasion with a weeklong series of special activities, capped by the public opening. They will include events for the arts and literary worlds, members of the international media, donors and governmental leaders who helped make the expansion and renovation project a success, and the local community. A special performance series has also been planned. Scheduled to appear are playwright Edward Albee, author Pete Hamill, baritone Thomas Hampson, and poet Seamus Heaney.

In addition to expanded exhibition space, the project includes a dramatic new welcoming entrance on Madison Avenue; a spacious central court that serves as a gathering place, in the spirit of an Italian piazza; a new, 280-seat performance hall; a naturally lit Reading Room; much-needed storage space for collections; and a number of visitor amenities, such as two new cafés and a gift shop.

"I am delighted to announce that April 29, 2006, will be the official opening of the newly expanded Morgan Library," said Director Charles E. Pierce, Jr. "As one of New York's cultural crown jewels, we are immensely excited to show the public our beautiful new surroundings. Renzo Piano has given the city a revitalized landmark, at once respecting the architectural traditions of the Morgan Library and providing dynamic additions to our Madison Avenue campus."

The new design integrates three historical buildings, including the original 1906 American Renaissance-style library by Charles McKim of McKim, Mead & White, with three intimately scaled pavilions constructed of faceted steel panels and glass to create an accessible and inviting setting. With more than 50 percent of their square footage located below ground the new buildings are modestly sized and respectful of the Morgan's traditional architecture and the surrounding neighborhood. The glass-enclosed central court connects the buildings and seamlessly joins the old and new, providing many views both in and out of the 151,000-square-foot campus.

"The design preserves the Morgan Library's unique charm and intimate scale," said Mr. Piano. "The Morgan experience will now be greatly enhanced and more public. We chose steel and extra-wide glass, which is almost like crystal. 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."

In total, the Morgan expansion project adds about 75,000 square feet to the complex. The increased exhibition space will enable the public to rediscover the Morgan's world-class superlative 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, printed books, and ancient pictorial seals from the Near East.

"The reopening marks a very important milestone in the history of the Morgan Library," said Mr. Pierce. "We will now be able to exhibit more of our collections than ever before and serve the scholarly community in new and better ways. This dual purpose has always been at the heart of the Morgan's mission."


The Morgan Library expansion and renovation project was begun in 2003, with New York&150; based Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP serving as the local architectural firm for the Paris-based Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

The three new pavilions face 36th Street, 37th Street, and Madison Avenue, with the largest centering the campus and providing the new entrance on Madison. The smallest, a 20 x 20 x 20 foot "cube" gallery inspired by Renaissance chambers Piano has encountered in Italy, is an essential element in the interplay of the three new structures with the three historical buildings. For the opening, some of the Morgan's most outstanding 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 enable the public to see more of the McKim building as well as the two other historic structures, the nineteenth-century townhouse now known as the Morgan House, and the 1928 Annex designed by Benjamin Wistar Morris, which previously served as the Morgan Library's main entrance.
New landscaping surrounding the Morgan enhances its park like 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 create many more opportunities for adults, families, and schoolchildren to participate in programs devoted exclusively to the permanent collection. Additional galleries 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 is located in both the new central pavilion and the old Reading Room space in the Annex, effectively doubling the Morgan's overall exhibition space.

Located below ground, the new performance hall, sheathed in warm cherrywood, features 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 maintains the subtle charm and intimacy of the former facility but is also outfitted with new technology and many more workstations to meet the needs of contemporary researchers. Naturally lit from above, its translucent roof structure enables 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 demonstrate the superb quality and scope of the institution's permanent collections, which are universally regarded as among the greatest in the world.

The drawings exhibition comprises approximately ninety works from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries, highlighting the breadth and depth of the Morgan's holdings. Included will be drawings by Italian artists, such as Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo; Dutch and Flemish masters Rembrandt and Rubens; and nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists, such as Cézanne, Degas, Picasso, and Pollock. The show will also chronicle the history of the Morgan's collection, from works purchased by Pierpont Morgan himself in 1909 to notable acquisitions of the last several years.

Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts are a cornerstone of the Morgan Library's international reputation. The opening exhibition will include such unrivaled works as the Reims Gospel Book, the Morgan's finest Carolingian manuscript, written in gold about 860 at the Abbey of St. Rémi. Also on display will be the Mont-Saint-Michel Sacramentary (ca. 1060), the most lavishly illuminated surviving manuscript from the French island abbey; the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, painted about 1440 by an artist regarded as the most gifted and original of the "golden age" of Dutch manuscript painting; and the Farnese Hours (1546), the most famous Renaissance manuscript by Giulio Clovio, a Croatian praised by Vasari as a Michelangelo of smaller works.

The installation of printed books and bindings showcases the Morgan's diverse and exceptional collection. Examples on view will include one of only two surviving copies of the first edition of Malory's stories of King Arthur (1485); one of the Morgan's three Gutenberg Bibles (ca. 1455), the first book printed from movable type; Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass (1872) with proofs of Tenniel's illustrations; Oscar Wilde's Vera, or the Nihilist (1882) with his autograph revisions and corrections; and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), annotated by the author.

Pierpont Morgan took great interest in ancient Near Eastern seals, as is evident from his collection, dating from 3500–330 B.C. The opening exhibition displays a number of the best examples of these objects, which are among the earliest known pictorial carvings used to communicate ideas. Created for about 3,000 years in the region the Greeks referred to as Mesopotamia, or "the land between two rivers," the seals had both a practical function, as a means of identification, and an amuletic one, intended to protect or benefit the owner in some way. They are among the smallest pictorial objects ever produced—often just one inch in size —intricately detailed by sculptors who carved them with simple tools in semiprecious stones.

The installation of literary and historical manuscripts presents a wide range of items—from drafts of poetry and prose to correspondence, journals, and other documents—by major European and American authors, artists, scientists, and historical figures. It will focus on what manuscripts reveal about the creative process. Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Alexander Pope, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jane Austen, Ezra Pound, Oscar Wilde, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, will be among the celebrated figures represented in the exhibition.

The opening exhibition of the Morgan's impressive collection of music manuscripts organizes some of the institution's most treasured works by genre, including operas, concertos, songs, and complete symphonic works. The show will include Mozart's famed "Haffner" Symphony and Richard Strauss's Don Juan, which are seen, almost note for note, as they are known today. Other works are in draft form and include pieces by Beethoven, Robert Schumann, and Charles Ives, among others.

Special Exhibition

The Morgan Library–Renzo Piano Building Workshop Project is the subject of a special exhibition of drawings, models, and photographs. Featuring materials from the conceptual design phase to the finished scheme, the exhibition is being organized by Brian Regan, the Morgan's Deputy Director, and Giorgio Bianchi, project architect. It will be installed in a special exhibition space located below the central court.

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 (L'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 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 Library

The Morgan Library, a campus like complex of buildings in the heart of New York City, began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913), one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today, it is 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 unveiling of the largest expansion and renovation project in its history, the Morgan reaffirms its role as an importantyhu repository for the history, art, and literature of Western civilization from 4000 B.C. to the twentieth century.