Welcome to the big league

Saturday marks the opening of the newly remodeled, 141,000-square-foot Mark Building at the Portland Art Museum. Formerly known as the North Building Project, the re-imagined Masonic temple marks the third and final phase of an ambitious $125 million revitalization plan for the museum. The building boasts 28,000 square feet of additional gallery space, and has dedicated spaces to the Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art and the Laura and Roger Meier Curatorial Wing. It has a climate-controlled underground passage/gallery to the Belluschi Building and a new space for the Northwest Film Center.


“The major goal was greater accessibility to the museum’s growing collections, tracing the past from impressionism to modernism,” museum spokesperson Joan Martin-Caulder said. That includes the 159 piece personal collection of modernist critic Clement Greenberg, acquired by the museum in 2000.


The Mark Building also features a new Art Study Center and Library, a cafe, a 60-foot glass overlook onto Portland’s South Park Blocks, a new administrative and curatorial center, as well as the historic, newly preserved Sunken, Commandery and Grand ballrooms.


“This is going to allow the museum a dramatic ability to bring new exhibitions,” arts benefactor Arlene Schnitzer said. “You need space to do things ?” there is that space now.”


Directors hope the Mark building will elevate the Portland Art Museum to new heights on the national scene, and Martin-Caulder draws comparisons between the gallery’s 28,000 square feet and that of New York’s prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art, which currently boasts a gallery space of only 25,000 square feet.


Kristen Kennedy, from the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (PICA), is hopeful the new gallery space will be an empowering fit into the contemporary arts community in Portland.


“This isn’t a zero-sum game. I see the art museum as part of a larger community ecology. PICA was formed to address the lack of representation in Portland, and we see this as a very good thing for the community. They have the ability to bring in bigger-name national exhibitions, not to mention originate very exciting projects. Nobody can do it at level of the Portland Art Museum.”


Martin-Caulder explained the museum’s goals further: “The Northwest Center for Art will remain in the Belluschi building, and we’re in the process of acquiring some exciting new works [for the Mark Building]. As well, as part of the overall cost, we’ve established an $8 million endowment to ensure the new wing continues to grow.”


Celebrations begin Saturday, Oct. 1 with a member’s only preview of the building, culminating with a late night pre-opening party at 10 p.m., the general public’s first peek at the new galleries. The event is 21+ with a $10 cover charge. The museum will be open and free to the public from Oct. 2 �_?” 16.