In the fall of 2008, the sidewalk between Angell Hall and what
is now known as the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art
will be replaced by a modern, glass structure.
The museum is heading in a new direction, with a new chief
curator, James Wyman, and plans for a 57,000-square foot expansion.
Construction on the building is scheduled to begin in late spring
Longtime curator Carole McNamara said the museum has always been
short on storage and gallery spaces. Over the last five years, the
collection, programming and academic involvement of the museum have
expanded dramatically, McNamara said.
“On almost any front you could imagine, we need additional
space,” McNamara said.
Director James Steward said only 3 percent of the museum’s
collection can be on display at any given time. With the expansion,
the number will increase to 10 percent.
The addition will more than double the current size of the
museum, and the work will also include refurbishing the existing
building. In addition to new gallery space, plans include the
construction of an auditorium, study and dining areas and three
“We really sought to reinvent the museum to serve the
entire University community. We wanted to create an art museum
where you can come with friends for a night out,” Steward
The new direction of the museum is evident in the choice of
James Wyman as the chief curator. He is a specialist in
contemporary art and photography, which are both areas the museum
is trying to emphasize, Steward said.
“We want to bring cutting edge, exciting new stuff,”
Wyman comes to the University from the Kennedy Museum of Art at
Ohio University, where he served as director.
McNamara said the creation of Wyman’s position was
“long overdue — a good move.”
As chief curator, Wyman will lead the museum’s curators
and represent exhibitions and programs to the campus and the
community. As a past director, he has vast administrative skill,
which Steward said will help with the building project.
“He has good leadership and skills that will help him be
an advocate for the museum and its programs,” McNamara
Wyman’s university background was an important factor when
Steward chose him.
“He really relishes that so much work is done with
students,” Steward said. He added that a university museum
has the advantage of being able to do more bold and new things, and
that Wyman embraces that. Steward also described Wyman as a
“very energetic, dynamic guy.”
The $35 million project will be funded largely by private
donations, such as the $10 million dollar gift from The Maxine and
Stuart Frankel Foundation of Bloomfield Hills.
The architecture of the expansion is distinctly more modern than
the existing building. Steward said the change in style is to
distinguish the past and the future, while also linking them. He
added that the addition fits current architectural design instead
of dwelling on the past.
“Architecture that we build today should reflect the
styles and values of our own time,” Steward said.