Building Expansion & Renovation Project

Front entrance of the museum

A New Chapter for Your Art Museum

Since its opening in 1936, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has grown exponentially to become one of the nation’s top comprehensive art museums. Today VMFA is a world-class cultural destination and dynamic urban center where inspiration, contemplation, community, and wonder are possible for everyone. Its mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret art; to encourage the study of the arts; and to enrich the lives of all. Architectural expansions, most notably the 2010 expansion, have been integral to the museum’s ability to fulfill that mission. Guided by its 2021–25 Strategic Plan, the museum is now embarking on another transformative expansion and renovation project to prepare for the next generation of museum visitors. The project is tentatively slated for completion in 2025.

What will change?

visitors in galleryTo expand opportunities for storytelling, learning, and advancing with our audiences, a new wing of more than 100,000 square feet will include state-of-the-art gallery spaces for African art, photography, and 21st-century art, as well as a second major-exhibitions space. A special-events space with dining facilities will seat up to 500 guests on the garden-level ground floor and open into the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden. The new wing will also provide a welcoming entrance to and from the Sculpture Garden to unite indoor and outdoor spaces and to encourage visitors to enter and enjoy the museum.

Children attending an in-gallery classIn addition to adding a new wing, the project will include renovation of large parts of the existing building to enhance the museum’s work in collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and teaching. Renovations will take place to improve gallery spaces for the permanent collection, increase facilities for art storage, provide new education classrooms, and upgrade the Leslie Cheek Theater, where public lectures and performances take place.

While the expansion includes a new Collections Center to house VMFA’s growing conservation department, renovations to the museum’s existing building will include the creation of the Frank Raysor Center for the Study of Works on Paper, featuring a study room for scholars, curators, and professors and students from local colleges and universities. The Frank Raysor Center will also serve as the location for matting and framing, and compact storage of the museum’s growing collection of nearly 26,000 prints, drawings, and photographs.

Who is the architect?

SmithGroup, an award-winning international architecture firm, will lead the expansion. The firm’s extensive portfolio features several impressive national museum projects including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collections and Conservation Center in Maryland, the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan, the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

What’s next?

The project will begin with a discovery and design phase, which is expected to take approximately 24 months. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2023, with the new wing tentatively slated for completion in the summer of 2025.

We look forward to welcoming the next generation of museum visitors to VMFA. We invite you to join the journey.

Learn how you can support VMFA