Renovated Kahn building reopens

Featuring art ranging from Monet to a dumbbell made of Vaseline, the renovated Louis Kahn Building was open to the entire Yale community for the first time on Wednesday, giving Elis a peek at the scope of the new facility’s offerings.

The building, originally designed by renowned architect Louis Khan, was accessible to students, faculty and staff for a special sneak preview. Art Gallery Director of Development Jill Westgard said the event had been in the works for six months and that previews of the gallery had already been offered to students in the arts community. Wednesday’s opening presented a chance for the entire University community to see the results of the three-year renovation.

Marc Appel ’08 leads a tour through the newly renovated Kahn Building. The gallery opened to students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, and its grand opening with occur on Sunday.
Blair Benham-Pyle
Marc Appel ’08 leads a tour through the newly renovated Kahn Building. The gallery opened to students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, and its grand opening with occur on Sunday.

In addition, the preview gave students an opportunity to look at the expanded galleries and to learn about the new resources now offered. Lectures and guided tours were given throughout the day to acquaint students with each exhibition.

Jock Reynolds, director of the gallery, said he was thrilled by the number of students who took advantage of the sneak preview. Westgard said over 1,000 people visited the gallery throughout the day.

“I’ve never seen more undergraduates in the museum in the nine years I’ve been here,” Reynolds said.

Over the past three years, renovations have largely kept the gallery out of the public eye. For some students touring the new facilities on Wednesday afternoon, such as Henry Finkelstein ’09, it was their first glimpse of the gallery since arriving at Yale.

“I think it’s a beautiful building,” Finkelstein said. “It is such a gorgeous open space.”

Art and architecture major Ali Van ’08 said she thought the renovations created a more engaging gallery.

“It’s like you have layers of art,” Van said, referencing the “pogo walls” originally designed by Kahn — mobile wall units partly intended to give flexibility to the display space. “The experience isn’t as meditative, but it’s much more accessible,” she said.

A common theme of student praise was the gallery’s deliberate layout.

“I will certainly be coming back,” said Noah Gentele ’10. “They’ve taken Louis Kahn and constructed a space that’s really modern, chic and open to the point where you can look at each piece of art individually.”

“Responding to Kahn: a Sculptural Conversation,” an exhibit on the first floor curated entirely by undergraduates, is the fruit of a year’s labor by seven Yale students under the direction of Pamela Franks, the gallery’s curator of academic initiatives. It features, among other pieces from the gallery’s collection, a dumbbell made entirely of Vaseline, “Unit Bolus” by Mathhew Barney; an Alexander Calder mobile, “Tulip”; and a fiberglass-resin man sitting on a chair drinking a beer, “Man in Chair with Beer” by Duane Hanson.

Gallery administrators said they wanted to create a building that would integrate students more effectively than the old gallery did. To that end, officials working with professors to bring classes to the print, drawing, and photograph study room on the building’s fourth floor. Those initiatives have already proven successful — all sections of Introduction to Art History will hold class in the room at some point next semester.

Amy Porter, the art gallery’s assistant director of communications, said she hopes the main floor will also provide students with a relaxing public space where they can “just hang out.”

The gallery’s grand opening will be Sunday, Dec. 10.

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