On June 16, the Hudson River Museum will enter a new phase in its 104-year history with the opening of new Special Exhibitions Galleries as well as a Community and Partnership Gallery, collectively known as the West Wing.
This expansion, the first phase of a major capital improvement plan that was drawn up in 2002, adds over 3,800 square feet to the museum’s footprint. Bathed in natural light and as white and stark as any Chelsea gallery, the West Wing has floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, offering views of the Hudson River and the steep cliffs of the Palisades. The new galleries were intentionally built out and down rather than up so the museum’s neighbors can continue to enjoy an unobstructed view.
Invisible to the public, but critical to the museum’s role as a caretaker of 18,000-plus objects, was also the addition of new climate-controlled art storage, consistent with current professional standards.
“I inherited a plan to have a West Wing and expanded the scope of the work,” says Director and CEO Masha Turchinsky, who took the museum’s helm in 2017. “Many ideas were part of the plan, but I was able to put my own stamp on it.”
Turchinsky’s expanded vision called for fundraising beyond an initial effort that raised $5.5 million from the City of Yonkers. Additional funding was secured from Westchester County ($6.2 million) and New York State’s department of economic development, Empire State Development ($630,000) in recognition of the museum’s role as a cultural anchor, community and education partner, and tourist destination.
The designs for the plan were drawn up by Archimuse, an architecture firm founded in 1990 to address the goals and aspirations of the museum community. Its previous clients include the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Whitney Museum of American Art. When the capital improvement plan is completed in 2025, it will add a total of 12,000 square feet of space to the museum’s current 40,000 and include a 100-seat auditorium, river terrace and newly conserved exterior for Glenview Historic House.
The inaugural exhibition in the Special Exhibitions Galleries is Kengo Kito’s installation Unity on Hudson, a mad squiggle of nearly 2,500 brightly colored hula hoops, connected end to end and swirling from floor to ceiling throughout the space. The site-specific work, says Kito, symbolizes the interconnectedness of all humanity and the museum’s relationship to the Hudson River.
Unity on the Hudson will be on display from June 16 through September 24. On October 13, a traveling exhibition titled Un/Natural Selections: Wildlife in Contemporary Art will open in the Special Exhibitions Galleries.
The Community and Partnership Gallery currently features Sylvia Sleigh’s 14-panel panoramic painting Invitation to a Voyage, part of the museum’s collection. It depicts a summer gathering of friends and artworld figures on the banks of the Hudson River, based on photographs that Sleigh took at a picnic in 1979. In the future, the gallery will be used for rotating exhibitions and experiments with local and regional artists.
“The expansion will allow us to display a lot more in the collection that the public is not aware of,” Turchinsky said. “This is much more than a new space to hang art on the walls. It’s a place to activate ideas.”
Photos: West Wing: Steve Paneccasio, Unity on the Hudson by Kengo Kito: Courtesy of Hudson River Museum, Sylvia Sleigh. Invitation to a Voyage: The Hudson River at Fishkill, 1979–99. Oil on canvas. Gift of the artist, 2006 (2006.03.01)