Yale Center for British Art to Close to Public for Building Conservation in 2023

New Haven—The Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) will close to the public starting February 27, 2023 to implement the next phase of conservation of its iconic modernist building, designed by Louis I. Kahn (1901–1974). The project will focus on exterior improvements, including the replacement of the museum’s roof and skylights, as well as significant upgrades to the gallery lighting system. The YCBA will reopen in 2024 with a reconceived installation of its collection.

The skylights and gallery lighting are original to the building, which opened to the public in 1977. The renovation will realize a replacement of the more than 200 domed Plexiglas skylights, which are an integral element of Kahn’s design. The replacement domes will fortify the building’s envelope, improve performance, and enrich the building’s signature rooftop, a feature Kahn referred to as the “fifth elevation.”

“As the museum approaches its fiftieth anniversary in 2027, we have begun to consider how to address the building’s aging infrastructure and overall sustainability. These improvements serve as a symbol of our commitment to the future of our landmark building and will help safeguard our collections for generations to come,” said Courtney J. Martin, Paul Mellon Director, Yale Center for British Art.

The museum will also invest in a more sustainable, energy-efficient lighting system, made possible, in part, by generous funding from the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative. Over the past two years, the museum’s conservators, curators, and technicians worked closely with the architectural and engineering consulting firm EwingCole to evaluate the current lighting and to design a replacement lighting system. The new gallery lights will allow for the use of LED bulbs rather than the current halogen lights. The transition from halogen to LED lighting will achieve a substantial reduction in energy consumption.

Onsite access to the Archives, the collection, Reference Library, and Study Room will be determined in early 2023. Museum Shop offerings will continue to be available for purchase online through the museum’s website.

A series of special exhibitions is being planned to accompany the reinstalled permanent collection. After the museum reopens, visitors can anticipate an exhibition examining the place of Mexican antiquity in British visual culture through the work of Agostino Aglio (1777–1857); the premier U.S museum exhibition of watercolors by Trinidadian artist Michel Jean Cazabon (1813–1888); the museum’s first exhibition on the landscapes of John Constable (1776–1837) featuring paintings and works on paper; and the first major North American exhibition highlighting the career of British artist Hew Locke (b. 1959), among others.

While the museum is closed, more than sixty paintings from the collection will be on view at the Yale University Art Gallery, located across Chapel Street. In a New Light: Paintings from the Yale Center for British Art will highlight key works from the collection, including Angelica Kauffman’s Rinaldo and Armida (1771), George Stubbs’s Zebra (1763), and J. M. W. Turner’s Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort Packet-Boat from Rotterdam Becalmed (1818), as well as paintings by Francis Bacon, Gwen John, John Everett Millais, and James McNeill Whistler. Other works from the collection will be on loan to museums and institutions across the United States and in Britain, including the Baltimore Museum of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Historic Royal Palaces, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Jewish Museum, New York; and SITE Santa Fe.

Throughout the closure, the museum will maintain its robust schedule of online programming, including artist conversations, book discussions, lectures, and symposia.

Project Background

This project follows more than a decade of research on the history of the design, construction, and renovation of the museum’s landmark building and the publication in 2011 of Louis Kahn and the Yale Center for British Art: A Conservation Plan. The book was authored by Peter Inskip and Stephen Gee, in association with Constance Clement, former deputy director of the museum, and was published by the YCBA in association with Yale University Press.

The YCBA’s most recent building project, undertaken in 2015–16, focused on interior improvements, including a reconfiguration of the Long Gallery on the fourth floor; the addition of a collections seminar room; and improvements to accessibility, fire prevention systems, and patron amenities, as well as electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and telecommunications upgrades.

For the upcoming project and previous building conservation projects, the YCBA has benefited from the expertise and dedication of its partners in the Yale Office of Facilities; EwingCole; Knight Architecture, LLC; and Turner Construction Company, as well as numerous other collaborators.

About the Building

The Yale Center for British Art was designed by the internationally acclaimed American architect Louis I. Kahn (1901–1974). Located across the street from his first major commission, the Yale University Art Gallery (1953), the YCBA is Kahn’s final work and was completed three years after he died in 1974. The exterior of matte steel and reflective glass confers a monumental presence in downtown New Haven. The geometric four-floor interior, designed around two courtyards, uses a restrained palette of natural materials, including travertine, white oak, and Belgian linen. Kahn succeeded in creating intimate galleries where one can view objects in diffused natural light. He wanted to maximize daylight and use artificial illumination only on overcast days or in the evening. The building’s design, materials, and skylit rooms provide an environment for the works of art that is simple and dignified.

About the Yale Center for British Art

The Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom, encompassing works from the fifteenth century to the present in a range of media. The museum offers a vibrant, year-round program of events and exhibitions in person and online. Presented to the university by collector and philanthropist Paul Mellon (Yale College, Class of 1929), the museum opened to the public in 1977. Visit the YCBA at britishart.yale.edu, and connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube @yalebritishart.