In 1966, Yale University made an announcement. Paul Mellon, a 1929 Yale graduate, son of the financier Andrew W. Mellon, would donate his entire collection of British Art, including a significant collection of rare books, to Yale. The art donation came with a monetary component. To house the collection, and to ensure that the bulk of it would always be available for scholarship and pleasure, Mr. Mellon provided funds to construct a dedicated building. This donation would result in the Yale Center for British Art, which houses the greatest collection of British Art outside of the United Kingdom and, thanks to Mellon’s generosity, remains free and open to the general public.
The choice of architect was important for such a collection, such a donor, and such a university. The prime candidate was always Louis I. Kahn, whose first realized commission had been the new building for Yale University Art Gallery. The resulting building for the Yale Center for British Art was, coincidentally, the architect’s last. The building, which
opened in 1977, is also one of his most acclaimed. In 2005, it was awarded the prestigious Twenty-five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects, which recognizes architectural designs of “enduring significance.”
Such significance is accorded to the building that the museum administration has long sought to preserve the building as assiduously as the art in their care. The Yale Center for British Art is currently undergoing the third phase of its major conservation project. The Center closed earlier in 2015 and will reopen on May 11, 2016.
In anticipation of the reopening, we at the Yale Club Library worked with some of the wonderful staff at the Center to whet our members’ artistic appetites. Just before Christmas, we installed our new exhibition, The Yale Center for British Art: A New Beginning, which gives members an overview of the Center’s history and a peak at the year ahead.
Members are invited to visit the Library before March to take a look, and should look forward to the reopening of the Yale Center for British Art in May.