Virginia Museum of Fine Arts opens this weekend

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' grand opening is this weekend. The $150 million upgrade means the museum is now in the top 10 in size and collections, along with staples like the New York Met and the Art Institute of Chicago.

We asked Museum Director Alex Nyerges to give us a behind the scenes tour and show us the changes that will strike you the most.

When you first enter the museum, said Nyerges, "First of all they're going to be wowed by the architecture. The soaring atrium that is the length of the football field. The Cochrane atrium is a work of art in itself. Rick Mather is a genius when it comes to the use of light, materials and space."

Then you can enter the new McGlothlin wing and its vastly expanded collections. Said Nyerges, "For the first time, for example this space is a room for pre-Columbian art, art from the ancient America's, and Native American art, two very important art forms, of which we have great collections."

He gave us sneak peeks at a garden atrium from India and inside the 1882 bedroom of Richmond native Arabella Worsham-Huntington, who became a New York Socialite. Nyerges explained, "It's one of the best existing examples of the high style, what we would generally think of as high Victorian, ornate tapestries, carpeting, ceiling panels. It's just absolutely gorgeous."

Then we were taken into the two new restaurants, a fine dining restaurant overlooking what's about to be a sculpture garden. And the Best Cafe where there's free wi-fi. The expanded gift shop is stacked with art and mementos aimed to increase sales from $320 thousand a year to $2 million.

The museum's mix of modern and ancient is meant to make a statement to the world. Said Nyerges, "This is going to transform not just the Museum, but Richmond and how people look at Virginia as a real place for the arts. The visual arts, of course, we have the new performing arts center. People will now think that we're leaders in the 21st Century.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts opens Saturday 10 a.m. to midnight and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Then you can pop next door. The Virginia Historical Society has a new exhibit showing how the block where both museums sit has changed over the years and impacted the community.

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