Mini-Flood 36: Saint Louis Art Museum

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photograph by Jason Gray

It has been almost three years since we last Flooded the venerable Saint Louis Art Museum. In that short time, they have added an entire new wing, a parking garage, and an outdoor sculpture garden. Also, on this Friday evening, the Museum will be screening JAWS for its Art Hill Film Series, hosting a bevy of delicious food truck fare, and more. slam009

photograph by Peter Hung

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photograph by John MacEnulty

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photograph by James Palmour

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photograph by Vivian Nieuwsma

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photograph by Ann Aurbach

The St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts originated in a free evening drawing class organized by the present Director of the Museum and School in 1875. This class met in one of the rooms of the central building of Washington University. Its success was so immediate, its growth so rapid and results so marked, that advanced classes were soon formed. As the work developed and the school continued to grow, better accommodations became necessary. There was great need also of collections illustrating the various phases of artistic development, to further stimulate and awaken the emulation of the students. -from “St. Louis School of Fine Arts Handbook, 1907-’08” slam001 The “better accommodations” described in the excerpt above were located at 19th and Locust Streets, in Downtown West, and were made possible through generous contribution by Wayman Crow, a prominent St. Louis businessman and co-founder of Washington University. According to early diagrams, the School and Museum’s facilities included 10 classrooms, a library and reading room, several storage rooms (presumably for collections), a gallery, and a theater, in addition to onsite administrative offices. Nonetheless, the Museum soon outgrow even these grand quarters, and in 1906, moved to its present location, a Beaux Arts structure atop Art Hill that was built for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. slam014

photograph by Kathy Crabtree Brown

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photograph by Allen Casey

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photograph by Caren Libby

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photograph by Michelle Bates

A century later, the Saint Louis Art Museum was outgrowing its home once again. During the previous years, the Museum swelled to possess an encyclopedic collection of more than 33,000 works of art, the Richardson Memorial Library (an outstanding reserve of more than 100,000 books relating to the arts), an extensive archive, and more. In 2004, the Museum’s Board began the lengthy process of initiating expansion, and by 2005, the architect David Chipperfield was selected to helm the project. slam021

photograph by Jason Gray

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photograph by Allen Casey

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photograph by Jason Gray

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photograph by Ryan Archer

10,500 truckloads of dirt were excavated from the 200,000 sq ft construction site during the more than 2.5 years required to build the East Building. In June of 2013, a Grand Opening revealed the efforts of a $160 million capital campaign (the most significant for a St. Louis cultural institution until that point). In June of 2015, the final phase was unveiled (an outdoor sculpture garden), completing work on the project, which caused a near complete overhaul of the Museum’s exhibition space.  Today, with a successful Art Hill Film Series underway, it is nice to see the Museum functioning again at full capacity.

The mission of the Institution has always been subjective to the needs of the community. It is then obvious by the throng of visitors, that the Saint Louis Art Museum is not only loved by the community, but so necessary to the region’s cultural identity.  If you have not been in a while, go. The Museum is better and bigger than ever, yet somehow still the same as you fondly remember (maybe much the same as Wayman Crow helped to envision).

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photograph by John MacEnulty

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photograph by Jason Gray

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photograph by Jason Gray

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photograph by Peter Hung

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photograph by Michelle Bates

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photograph by Dan Henrichs Photography, St. Louis

MAP: 1972244_663644120403584_8768367129771163151_n

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