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A New Home for the Collections

The Philadelphia Museum of Art's acquisition of the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building in 2000 has enabled the expansion of exhibition space and visitor amenities.

Terrace (left), Skylit Galleria (right), Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Images courtesy of Gluckman Mayner Architects

"The Museum's collections began to outgrow available space in our great Neoclassical building more than a quarter of a century ago, so the Perelman Building represents the first giant step forward in our plan to dramatically expand the opportunities we offer to the public for encounters with works of art," explains Anne d'Harnoncourt, director of the Museum. "The spectacular exterior, with its crown of gilded ceramic figures of owls and squirrels and other ornamental detail sculpted by the great deco master Lee Lawrie, is complemented by the interior renovation expertly designed by Gluckman Mayner Architects. As you move inside, it has an airy, contemporary feel. The renewed building is a celebration of space and light, and springing from that are many new opportunities to delight and inspire our visitors."

Among the most enticing features are six new galleries in which to showcase the collections.
Gail Harrity, chief operating officer of the Museum, adds, "The Perelman Building marks the first expansion of the Museum's footprint since 1928, the year our building was completed at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It also provides the first expansion of gallery space since 1977, when the Kienbusch galleries for arms and armor opened to the public. This is an important milestone in our master plan to expand and modernize the entire Museum over the next 10 to 15 years."

High school teachers, college students, independent scholars, and faculty from Philadelphia's many colleges, art schools, and universities find extraordinary new resources awaiting them at the Perelman Building. These include study centers for costume and textiles and prints, drawings, and photographs that offer rare opportunities for first-hand engagement with works of art in collaboration with Museum staff.

Among the most enticing features are six new galleries in which to showcase the collections. As visitors pass under the elaborate arch facing Fairmount Avenue, they enter a beautifully preserved lobby that offers a variety of choices. Straight ahead, visitors may stroll into the new addition housing the Café, Skylit Galleria, and a suite of galleries devoted to photographs, costume and textiles, and modern and contemporary design. Or, turning left from the lobby, they may enter a rotunda adjoining the Shop and leading into the expansive gallery for changing installations, which extends along Pennsylvania Avenue. The handsome staircase or an elevator from the lobby to the second floor takes visitors to the Library’s new reading room with its views of the park and city. Walking past the Wachovia Education Resource Center, in which teachers from all over the region may find art information to help them prepare their classes, visitors find treasures on view in the study gallery for costume and textiles.

"The new spaces offer so many opportunities to show remarkable objects that many of our visitors have never seen before," says d'Harnoncourt. "In the gallery for costume and textiles, you might find a survey of American quilts or samplers, or textiles from China, India, or Japan, followed by works created in Philadelphia's famous Fabric Workshop. In the gallery for photography, you might find a selection of images by Alfred Stieglitz, Robert Frank, or Sebastiao Salgado, or recent work by Philadelphia photographers. In the modern and contemporary design gallery, we finally have space to showcase objects created in the last 100 years that apply boundless imagination to the issues of form and function, while the opportunities for showing sculpture from all cultures and periods are so much greater than we have had before. We could even present an entire newly acquired collection. The exciting thing is that there are so many options."