Two Philadelphia landmarks with shared histories that have stood together for decades are now united in an historic agreement that will ensure the future growth and vitality of the city's great art museum. On Friday, October 22, 1999, representatives of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company (RSL), a subsidiary of Delphi Financial Group, Inc., announced the Museum's commitment to acquire the insurance company's celebrated flagship building, located across the street from the Museum at 2501 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is located at 26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the neighboring RSL Building was built in the late 1920s by the distinguished Philadelphia architectural firm of Zantzinger, Borie and Medary (the RSL Building was completed in 1926, and the Museum followed in 1928).
Once known as the "Golden Archway to Fairmount Park," the RSL Building is lavishly decorated with sculpture, color and gilding, and is regarded as one of the finest Art Deco structures in Philadelphia. Many of its outstanding features were created by the artist Lee Lawrie, whose work adorns such notable American public buildings as Rockefeller Center, the Library of Congress, and the National Academy of Sciences.
"Development of new physical space that is in keeping with the beauty and character of the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been our foremost priority and concern throughout a rigorous process of planning this great institution's future," said Raymond G. Perelman, Chairman of the Museum's Board of Trustees. "With the addition of this beautiful building, the Museum takes an enormously important step toward meeting our goals for the next century, and marks the third great milestone in its history, the first being the founding of the Museum in Memorial Hall in 1876, and the second being the move into the remarkable neoclassical temple on the Parkway in 1928."
"Happily juxtaposed on neighboring sites for over 70 years, these two great buildings-- one inspired by the temples of ancient Greece, the other a glorious expression of the Art Deco style of the 1920s and '30s--suggest the progression from the classical to the early modern in art and architecture, just as the Museum within its galleries presents a 'walk through time,'" notes Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "We are now delighted to call 'home' these two wonderful structures that anchor the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and, together with the Rodin Museum, create a beautiful campus for the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the 21st century. I am thrilled by the opportunity this represents for the Museum."
The Philadelphia Museum of Art previously achieved its impressive growth by finding room for expansion within its own walls, but its interior space is now full to the brim. Gail Harrity, the Museum's Chief Operating Officer, adds, "The RSL Building provides urgently needed space for the future growth of the Museum, and the development of a technologically advanced library. By relocating some functions to the RSL Building, we will free space in the original Museum building for expanded display of permanent collections and presentation of public programs."
The 100,000 square foot RSL Building on its two-acre site will be purchased with funds contributed by donors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, augmented by, pending the approval of City Council, capital funds from the City of Philadelphia. The purchase price for this unique, museum-quality edifice, is $17 million.
Reliance Standard Life Insurance Company has owned and occupied its handsome building since 1989. With an extensive history of support for cultural and educational causes in Philadelphia, RSL has built a productive partnership with the Division of Education at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In recent years, a series of grants from Reliance Standard Life Insurance and the Delphi Financial Group have enabled the Museum to strengthen and expand its longstanding efforts in outreach to Philadelphia public schools, introducing children from the city's most impoverished schools to the Museum's collections in innovative ways.
Robert Rosenkranz, Chairman of Delphi Financial Group and Reliance Standard Life, commented, "We are proud to have refurbished and maintained this award-winning and historic building, and now to have made it possible for the Philadelphia Museum of Art to use this noble architectural monument for its expansion. We expect to remain in Philadelphia and continue as the good corporate citizens we have been for over 90 years."
"Due, in great part, to the dynamic leadership of our Museum and its unparalleled high standard of achievement, Philadelphia has laid the groundwork for a cultural life that is second to none in the United States. I am thrilled with this major step forward for the future of our city's great art Museum," said Edward G. Rendell, Mayor of Philadelphia.