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3/10/2019 9:48:00 AM
Honoring angles: IU art museum renovation uses building's design to inform changes
A bridge has been added on the third floor at the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at the center of Indiana University's Bloomington campus. Staff photo by Jenny Porter Tilley
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A bridge has been added on the third floor at the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at the center of Indiana University's Bloomington campus. Staff photo by Jenny Porter Tilley

Jenny Porter Tilley, Herald-Times Arts Editor

On one diagonal exterior wall of the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, a large window frames the IU Auditorium and Showalter Fountain.

If world-renowned architect I.M. Pei designed a wall with a huge window, “it’s for a reason,” said David Brenneman, museum director. But because the Venetian blinds were bulky and difficult to raise and lower, he said, the blinds mostly stayed closed, making the gallery inside a separate entity from the surrounding Fine Arts Plaza on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus.

During the the almost two-year period the museum has been closed for renovations, mechanized shading systems have been added to interior and exterior windows. It’s one of the many ways the project sought to honor the architect’s original intent, Brenneman said, calling the building a work of art.

“Everything we did with the renovation was done with this in mind,” he said. “We approached the renovation with a sensitivity toward Pei’s architectural vocabulary, keeping in mind that even though the building can be understood as a utilitarian work of art, there was an opportunity to highlight its relevance today.”

On Thursday, Brenneman and Mariah Keller, director of creative services, gave The Herald-Times a tour of the facility’s progress. The museum closed to the public in May 2017 for a $30 million renovation. Staff members have now moved back into the building, and it’s targeted to reopen this fall, after more than 1,000 art objects are reinstalled.

Inside the main entrance off the plaza, subtle changes on the first floor use the angles of Pei’s original structure to open up the space and improve its function. Entrances to the two downstairs galleries now have inset spaces, expanding the area.

Tony Rosenthal’s 1989 sculpture “Indiana Totem,” made of painted aluminum, still graces the lobby, though it’s been covered to keep it safe during construction. Following its line upward, a new bridge across the third floor — part of the original design, but eliminated from the final plans before construction was completed in 1982 — blends in with the existing structure.

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