Finally, the UW's Art Museum Has the Space to Showcase Its Own Collection and Stunning Works by Contemporary Artists

By Jon Marmor

A wine cooler pink Eastern sky warms as the slowly rising sun brings a glow above the spires of Suzzallo Library and bathes Red Square. The statue of George Washington, his back to Suzzallo, keeps his usual watch on Schmitz Hall and the flowing traffic on the ship canal bridge. Behind all this, cherry blossoms are in full bloom on the Quad at the University of Washington.

It would be great if this scene unfolded on Sunday, April 13. But even if it is pouring rain and the sky is murky gray and a chill wind blows, this will still be a day to celebrate.

Construction workers put the finishing touches on the new Henry Art Gallery. In the center, the original Henry is surrounded by Charles Gwathmey's modernist addition, including the dramatic South Gallery, which follows the lines of the hillside it replaced. Photo by Mary Levin.

For it is the day the 70-year-old Henry Art Gallery will reopen after a major expansion and renovation. Considered by many to be one of the Pacific Northwest's leading museums for contemporary arts, the Henry will take a major step forward as the familiar but elegant 10,000-square-foot, collegiate-Gothic red brick building is joined with a new, modernist three-level structure, the Faye G. Allen Center for the Visual Arts. The new 36,000-square-foot Charls Gwathmey-designed gem triples the museum's exhibition space, enhancing the Henry's ability to bring world-class art to campus.

"The voice and vision of a university museum is more focused and allows for greater risk-taking and more experimentation in its exhibitions and programming," says Richard Andrews, director of the Henry Art Gallery. "Seattle is known nationwide as a city of innovation, and the Henry, through its diverse programming, has become a vital part of the city's tradition of creative energy."

And the only way to keep up with that growing energy--and the art being created--was to add more space.

"Over the Hills and Far Away," c.1897, by William Merritt Chase, from the Horace C. Henry Collection.

Physically, the Henry is a far cry from its modest beginnings in 1927 as the state's first public art museum. The museum was created by Horace C. Henry, a Seattle builder and philanthropist, who donated his collection of primarily late 19th- and early 20th-century French and American landscape paintings (valued at nearly half a million dollars then) along with $100,000 for the construction of the museum, provided construction "commence at a very early day." Horace Henry's legacy lives on. As part of the inaugural exhibition, viewers will see works by Winslow Homer and Gilbert Stuart from his original collection.

The Henry was intended to be the first wing of a large arts complex at the western edge of the campus, envisioned as the gateway to campus and a bridge from the University and the community. But it was the only part of the fine-arts master plan by UW architect Carl F. Gould to be realized.

Gwathmey, Guggenheim and the Gallery
Unpacking the Collection

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