Neuberger Museum gets $11M makeover, reopens April 28

Paola Morsiani, director of the Neuberger Museum of Paola Morsiani, director of the Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase College, stands outside the museum, which is closed for renovations and will reopen in April. (Jan. 29, 2013) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

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The Neuberger Museum at SUNY-Purchase, the nation's 10th-largest university-based art institution, is undergoing an $11 million upgrade just before its 40th anniversary celebration in 2014.

The three-story brick building, designed by noted architect Philip Johnson and closed since June 2012, will reopen April 28 with "new lungs" in the form of a state-of-the-art ventilation and air-conditioning system, explained museum director Paola Morsiani. When complete, the Neuberger might look exactly the same, but climate-controlled rooms and thicker glass windows will provide better protection for a collection of more than 6,000 works of fine art.

"We always had a good climate, but at this point, we upgraded it in order to have great climate control," Morsiani said.

The Neuberger renovations come as the college is in the midst of carrying out a $131.5 million capital plan, set in motion in 2008, to upgrade buildings and facilities, said Christopher Gavelick, director of facilities management and capital planning. Projects range in size from a $35 million overhaul of the Durst Family Humanities Building to a new $3 million roof for the college's acclaimed Performing Arts Center, located steps away from the museum.

When the Neuberger opened in 1974, it was the first building completed on a brand-new state university campus set on 500 acres within the Town of Harrison. It was originally designed as a commuter college with a visual and performing arts focus by then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, who added the museum to showcase hundreds of works donated by his friend, the self-made financier and art patron Roy R. Neuberger, according to SUNY-Purchase officials.

The facility is now an academic museum, with a $3 million budget and a staff of 25, including five professional curators for its African, Latin American, modern and contemporary collections, Morsiani said. Students are involved in programming events and learning the business of curating at the museum, which will always be "a teaching tool for students," she added.

On Sunday, April 28, the Neuberger will reopen its doors with a new installation, "Pre-Columbian Remix." The exhibition will feature contemporary pieces inspired by ancient themes from four leading Latin American artists: Enrique Chagoya, Demian Flores, Ruben Ortiz-Torres and Nadin Ospina.

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Moving on from there, the museum has a full calendar of events planned for the rest of the year, leading up to the 40th anniversary celebrations in 2014, Morsiani said.

The 78,000-square-foot museum building, which has administrative offices on the top floor, features 25,000 square feet of gallery space, exterior sculpture courts, as well as an electronic library, cafe and gift shop. It averages about 46,000 visitors per year, according to SUNY-Purchase officials.

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