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Roof Goof: More on the Art Institute of Chicago’s Skylight Adjustments

Art Institute of Chicago's Modern Wing on opening day, May 16, 2009 Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing on opening day, May 16, 2009
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Erin Hogan, director of public affairs for the Art Institute of Chicago, replied yesterday to my request for more details regarding what’s behind the museum’s unfortunate seven-month shutdown of the top floor of its four-year-old Modern Wing, designed by Renzo Piano.

She told me that work to be done in the galleries for European modern art, which contain (among other treasures) Chicago’s celebrated Matisses and Picassos, will involve “recalibrating [the] lighting system [my link, not hers] to ensure consistent ‘daylight harvesting’ across all of the galleries.”

This “recalibration,” she said, will entail:

—installing light-filtering film on the skylight of the third floor of the Modern Wing

—moving the light sensors from the outside of the building to the inside

Other work to be done during the closure includes:

—fine tuning the motion sensors and weights of the doors into and out of the galleries

—refinishing and painting walls, cases, sculpture podiums and pedestals

Most new museum buildings have “punch lists” of flaws that need to be fixed and systems that need to be tweaked after the opening. But the belated “updates” (as Erin called them) to Piano’s complicated roof system seem to be significant revisions (the museum doesn’t like the word “renovations”), undertaken after less drastic adjustments (previously described to me by Douglas Druick, the museum’s director now, but not when the expansion plans were conceived or executed), had fallen short.

Hogan declined to say how much the updates would cost, but told me that Piano’s firm would not be paying for them because “this is routine work.”

an ArtsJournal blog