Unwrapping a new Chrysler

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — It sits dormant in the heart of Norfolk’s storied Ghent neighborhood, awaiting a grand re-introduction. For the last 16 months, the whispers of polite conversation while gazing at treasures of the ages have been replaced by the rhythmic pounding of reconstruction and renewal. But soon, the Chrysler Museum of Art will open its doors to the public once again. Workers are putting the finishing touches on a $24 million expansion and renovation of the main building, which is slated to re-open May 10.

French sculpture from 1888 will be displayed at the Chrysler Museum of Art for the first time when it re-opens on May 10.

This expansion will add two new wings for the museum’s American and European painting and sculpture, and will provide 30 percent more gallery space for the Chrysler’s renowned glass collection. The ancient world’s galleries and the modern and contemporary art galleries will be expanded to display a growing collection of new media pieces and 21st-century works.

The soul of the Chrysler’s 30,000-work collection was donated by Walter P. Chrysler Jr., the scion of the auto industry giant, who began buying and selling art as a teenager. In 1945, Chrysler married Jean Ester Outland, a Norfolk native whose close ties to her hometown led her husband to house his collection at what was then the Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences. Chrysler’s gift in 1971 transformed a small organization into a major art museum.  

“Our building project is the latest component for the Chrysler’s ongoing commitment to providing our visitors with experiences that delight, inform, and inspire,” said Bill Hennessey, director of the Chrysler Museum of Art.

Hennessey invited me in with my camera to capture some images of this cultural face lift. (Click here to see them.)

The museum has reportedly raised more than 98 percent of a $45 million capital campaign, which included expanded operations and growth of the endowment to support expanded operations.

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