Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

From the British Museum to the Tate Modern, mega-museums go big

By William Lee Adams, for CNN
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
The world's leading museums are thinking big. By 2016, London's Tate Modern will have added 20,670 square meters of space, or roughly 60% of its current area. That is equivalent to four American football fields.
The world's leading museums are thinking big. By 2016, London's Tate Modern will have added 20,670 square meters of space, or roughly 60% of its current area. That is equivalent to four American football fields.
HIDE CAPTION
Tate Modern, London
British Museum, London
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
V&A, Dundee
Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge
Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Zayed National Museum, Abu Dhabi
Zayed National Museum, Abu Dhabi
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The world's biggest museums are adding new wings to accommodate visitors
  • New exhibition spaces help expand existing programs and stage new shows
  • Renzo Piano has created a glass structure to unite the Harvard Art Museums

(CNN) -- From the British Museum to the Louvre, the world's leading museums house treasured artifacts and storied works of art. They may protect centuries of culture, but they don't want to be perceived as dusty relics themselves.

In response to growing numbers of visitors and, in some instances, creaky infrastructure, these and other iconic museums are undergoing unprecedented expansions.

From London's Tate Modern to the Louvre in Paris, museums are adding extensions, constructing new branches, and erecting gleaming new exhibition spaces, often with the help of the world's leading design firms.

The Louvre's first satellite museum
The Olympic art of London 2012
2,600-yr.-old object symbolizes tolerance

The Tate Modern, the world's most popular museum of modern art, receives around five million visitors a year. That is twice the number that Trustees had in mind when they opened the museum in 2000.

So, as part of a £215m ($357m) expansion plan, the museum commissioned Herzog & de Meuron to convert underground oil tanks into subterranean galleries, which opened in the summer of 2012.

Museums of wonder

When the final expansion is complete at the end of 2016, the museum will have expanded its area by 60%, adding 20,670 square meters of space. The additional space is equivalent to nearly four American football fields.

Chris Dercon, the museum's director, sees the expansion as essential to accommodate the museum's expanding collection and programs.

"It is about transforming the museum into an even more open, engaging place for increasingly diverse audiences," he says. "Our audiences want us to offer many different activities - to be a place for acquiring knowledge, meeting people, discussing ideas, being entertained - and they want to be participants in their own right. The new Tate Modern will be a place to enjoy art from all over the world in all its variety, and will provide artists and visitors with the different kinds of spaces they need to do so."

Nearby, the British Museum has sunk £135 million ($224 million) into its World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre, which opened in March. Designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour+Partners, it stretches out over nine floors and will include 1,100 square meters of gallery space devoted to temporary exhibitions.

Growing audience

In 2013, more than 470,000 visitors filed through the museum's blockbuster show "Life and death in Pompeii and Herculaneum." As with many of its other shows, the museum had to stage the exhibition in its former Reading Room.

"This has limited what we can achieve in terms of exhibition narrative and the display of loan objects," says Hannah Boulton, the museum's head of press and marketing. "The new dedicated space means we can encourage the widest possible audience to come and experience our exhibitions."

"It is about transforming the museum into an even more open, engaging place for increasingly diverse audiences.
Chris Dercon, director of Tate Modern

Expansion doesn't always involve the original building. In recent years the number of museums opening satellite branches has increased dramatically, and looks set to increase in the coming years.

London's Victoria & Albert Museum, the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, will open the V&A Dundee in Scotland in 2017. It marks the first time that a design museum will be built in the UK outside of London.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi opens in 2015 with a price tag of $650 million.

Designed by Jean Nouvel, it will sit on Saadiyat Island and touches both sand and sea. It's meant to look like as if it is floating from a distance.

About two-thirds of the structure will be covered by a white dome, with a diameter of 600 feet. Geometric openings in the roof will create a "rain of light" meant to invoke light entering a souk

Curators go to Harvard

University museums see expansion and renovation as key to their mission, too.

In November, Harvard University's three art museums -- the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger and the Sackler -- will re-open under one roof.

Starchitect Renzo Piano has consolidated the Harvard Art Museums under a single glazed rooftop structure, while restoring and upgrading the 1920s Georgian revival architecture.

Like museum officials elsewhere, Harvard's administration believes the museums' facelift will help them inspire the students and community they serve.

As Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust says: "Renzo Piano has designed a building that is as beautiful as the works of art it will house and as thoughtful as the people who will work and learn within it."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
CNN Style
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1046 GMT (1846 HKT)
L.A. artist Christine McConnell styles herself as a glamorous pin-up, but her sumptuous cakes evoke the Tim Burton-esque realm of fantasy.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1651 GMT (0051 HKT)
A new generation of creatives are taking code to a more colorful realm, using digital media to push the boundaries of art.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
From space vacuums to dial-less phones, 50 objects offer a colorful glimpse into daily life behind the Iron Curtain.
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 1536 GMT (2336 HKT)
Every June, 200,000 perfectly styled people attend the Glastonbury Festival, known as much for the music as the glamor on its muddy fields.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2324 GMT (0724 HKT)
What does an acclaimed chef do for an encore after he's closed the best restaurant in the world? Starts looking for the key to all creativity.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
French photographer takes us on a nostalgic trip to the golden age of Hollywood with images of glamorous movie palaces of the art deco era.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 0854 GMT (1654 HKT)
BASEL, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 17: Visitor walk next to the artwork 'Continuel Mobile - Sphere rouge' by Michelangelo Pistoletto in the Unlimited section of Art Basel on June 17, 2014 in Basel, Switzerland. Art Basel one of the most prestigious art fair in the world, which runs until the 22nd of June 2014 will showcase the work of more than 4,000 artists selected by 300 leading galleries. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
Over 92,000 people flocked to Art Basel, a top international contemporary art fair, to see works by the likes of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
CNN bring you the latest from the Olympics of architecture, this year directed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1130 GMT (1930 HKT)
After years of research art experts and scientists have found a painting hidden underneath Picasso's 1901 masterpiece "The Blue Room."
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
A convoy of the world's most luxurious supercars drives from England to the Monaco Grand Prix, causing a stir along the way.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 1654 GMT (0054 HKT)
This is what happens when seven world-class architects design bus stops in a tiny Austrian village.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
A new exhibition in New York shows that when it comes to the art of origami, it takes a lot more than just folding paper.
May 26, 2014 -- Updated 0607 GMT (1407 HKT)
Vivid Sydney, a festival of light, music, and ideas, sets the sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House alight.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Atlanta's High Museum of Art is showcasing 17 visionary concept cars worth millions.
May 12, 2014 -- Updated 2122 GMT (0522 HKT)
Flamboyant gowns, sparkling jewels and A-list celebrities.
May 19, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
Wealthy Asian collectors propel sales sky-high at the annual art extravaganza.
ADVERTISEMENT