museum expansion

The art museum fills in the blanks

Portland Art Museum's new $50 million Pavilion project restores a link to Mark Rothko and makes sense of a scattered campus. Here's why it's important.

The big news Thursday from the Portland Art Museum – a new $50 million building on its South Park Blocks campus – is about filling in blanks.

  • First, the open glass structure will fill in the space between the museum’s two major buildings, its 1932 Belluschi Building on the south and the Mark Building, a former Masonic Temple that the museum bought in 1994 and renovated in 2005, on the north.
  • Second, it will help fill in one of the most glaring holes in the museum’s collections, its almost total lack of works by Mark Rothko, the most famous visual artist ever to call Portland home.

The new building, called the Rothko Pavilion, is scheduled to break ground in 2018 and open in late 2020 or early 2021. It will connect the two current buildings and add almost 10,000 square feet of gallery space in its total of 30,000 square feet.

Artist's rendering of the new Rothko Pavilion, from Southwest Park Avenue.

Artist’s rendering of the new Rothko Pavilion, from Southwest Park Avenue.

It also marks a 20-year agreement with Rothko’s children, Christopher Rothko and Kate Rothko Prizel, to loan major Rothko paintings in rotation from their private collection. Whether or not that leads to an eventual gift of major paintings, it makes it possible for Portland museum visitors to see and study first-hand the work of a leading innovator in 20th century art who grew up and graduated from high school here before moving to New York to take part in an artistic revolution. “Our family is thrilled to enter into this partnership with the museum,” Christopher Rothko said in a prepared statement from the museum. “Portland played a formative role in my father’s youth, and we are eager to share these works with the public and give Rothko a more active role in the vibrant cultural life of this city.”

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