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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 05/ 4/2010

Virginia arts museum gets a winning makeover

By Peter Galuszka
LOCAL BLOG NETWORK

In addition to everything else, now Virginia Attorney General Kenneth N. Cuccinelli may be giving art a bad name. His latest antic of cloaking the bosom of the Roman lady on the state seal on pins given to his office staffers, and then ditching the plan, is a case in point.

Speaking of art, however, there is something new and useful in Richmond, namely the just-renovated Virginia Museum of Fine Art. The partly state-funded institution is now on the top 10 list of art museums in the country in terms of size and collections, thanks to a $204 million makeover that is transformational and sophisticated. The museum reopened May 1.

After the VMFA first opened in 1936, it was so user-unfriendly that wags called it "Fort Art," which is a shame because it grew to have one of the best Faberge and modern art collections around. After three renovations, an attempt at opening it up was finally made about 10 years ago.

London-based Rick Mather Architects got the job. Following their experience renovating Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum, the firm added a dramatic three-story glass atrium at the museum's north end and tied its hodgepodge of exhibits together with three new corridors. Other additions include space for traveling exhibits, such as a Tiffany show coming soon, a new cafe and restaurant, an outdoor sculpture garden, an art restoration workshop and special space for schoolchildren.

The size and breadth of the makeover is remarkable for a town as small as Richmond, especially given the bad economy, skinflint state budget and the capital's stubborn provincialism. The new institution, owned by the state's taxpayers and free to the public, is a trend in a promising direction.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | May 4, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Va. Politics, Virginia, arts, economy  
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