Rothko Pavilion rendering
View of the community commons from the new stair. Courtesy of Vinci Hamp Architects.
Rothko Pavilion illustration
View of the community commons. Courtesy of Vinci Hamp Architects.
Mark Rothko (2012), Portland Art Museum.
Mark Rothko (2012), Portland Art Museum.

Museum expands with the Rothko Pavilion

A New Building – the Rothko Pavilion – will Unify the Museum’s Campus and Create a New Community Commons Free and Open to the Public, as Well as New Exhibition Spaces and a Rooftop Deck and Sculpture Garden

Rothko Pavilion illustration
View of the east entrance plaza. Courtesy of Vinci Hamp Architects.

The Portland Art Museum today announced both an expansion that will unify its campus by connecting the Museum’s freestanding buildings, and a 20-year partnership with the children of Mark Rothko, Christopher Rothko, and Kate Rothko Prizel. The partnership includes the loan to the Museum of major paintings by Mark Rothko from their private collection; paintings will be loaned individually in rotation over the course of the next two decades.

The expansion will feature a new glass-walled building, to be named the Rothko Pavilion, in recognition of the artist’s legacy in Portland—his home as a youth after immigrating from Latvia—and the Museum, where he took art classes as a teenager and where he received his first solo exhibition. The naming was made possible thanks to the $8 million lead gift from a donor who wished to remain anonymous so the pavilion could be named in Mark Rothko’s honor.

The expansion project will seamlessly link the Museum to the surrounding Cultural District with a new central entrance flanked by greenery and sculpture that opens onto the South Park Blocks. The project will make the Museum more publicly accessible, while knitting the campus together with the surrounding neighborhood and reducing the Museum’s carbon footprint. Groundbreaking is scheduled to take place in 2018, with an expected completion date for the project in late 2020 or early 2021. The Museum is launching the public phase of a $75-million capital and endowment campaign to fund the project. To date, $21.75 million (43 percent) of the $50-million capital goal has been raised, and $5.4 million has been raised towards the $25-million endowment goal.

“The partnership with the Rothko family is a homecoming of sorts, enabling us to share with the public major works from the family’s private collection, offer new insight into Rothko’s practice, and honor his legacy in the Pacific Northwest and the international arts community,” said Brian Ferriso, The Marilyn H. and Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. Director and Chief Curator. “We are deeply appreciative of Christopher and Kate’s extraordinary generosity in sharing these works with the people of Portland, the state of Oregon, and visitors to our city. Our plans for the Rothko Pavilion bring together the elements of the Portland Art Museum’s mission: to present exceptional works of art, develop exhibitions that take new perspectives on human creativity, and increase public accessibility and inclusion.”

“Our family is thrilled to enter into this partnership with the Museum,” said Christopher Rothko. “Portland played a formative role in my father’s youth, and we are eager to share these works with the public and give Rothko a more active role in the vibrant cultural life of this city.  Our hope is that visitors will take the time to pause and engage with each of these paintings, and to participate in the process of ‘slow looking’ that the Museum has championed.”

Designed by Chicago-based Vinci Hamp Architects, the Rothko Pavilion and Connections Campaign include the addition of and renovation of roughly 30,000 square feet, featuring a glass-walled stair tower that will connect the Pavilion to the Museum’s Main Building. In addition to the Community Commons, the Pavilion will feature 9,840 square feet of new gallery space, including space for contemporary and media art, as well as a new Education and Design Lab, and new space for the Museum’s library. The project will also create a third-floor sculpture garden that will provide visitors the chance to step outside and enjoy the Museum’s natural surroundings; the rooftop deck will also serve as a space for public programming and events. The paintings loaned by Christopher and Kate Rothko Prizel will be installed in light-controlled galleries adjacent to the new Rothko Pavilion.

“As we look forward to the next 125 years, we look to strengthen our connection between the Museum and the public it serves,” said Janet Geary, Chairman of the Portland Art Museum Board of Trustees. “Our campaign will connect building to building, the Museum to the community, people to art and to each other.”

Architect Vinci Hamp’s previous work includes projects for the Art Institute of Chicago, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and the Neue Galerie in New York, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Oriental Institute, Smart Museum of Art, and The Arts Club in Chicago, among others. Also known for their historic preservation work, Vinci Hamp has completed award-winning projects that include the Illinois State Capitol, Chicago Tribune Tower, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio.

The Portland Art Museum has mounted exhibitions by a diverse roster of artists since the time of its founding. In 1913, the Museum brought works from the famous New York Armory Show to Portland, helping to introduce West Coast audiences to Modernism. In 1933 the Museum organized the first solo exhibition of works by the 29-year-old artist Marcus Rothkowitz, later to be known as Mark Rothko.

Ferriso joined the Portland Art Museum in 2006, and in 2016 was appointed President of the Association of Art Museum Directors. During his tenure at the Museum, Ferriso has helped to build a $4-million endowment dedicated for initiatives to increase public accessibility, enabling one-third of all visitors to receive free or reduced admission and supporting the Museum’s program of free school tours and free admissions for those 17 and under. He has also doubled the Museum’s curatorial staff, with four curatorial positions fully endowed at $2 million each, and greatly expanded the Museum’s development of original exhibitions. Under his leadership, the Museum has presented notable exhibitions including a major Mark Rothko retrospective in 2012, as well as Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia Gorge, 1867–1957 (2008), featuring works by Carleton E. Watkins, Lily White, and Sarah Ladd, among others; Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video (2013), a solo exhibition by the Portland native; Contemporary Native Photographers and the Edward Curtis Legacy: Zig Jackson, Wendy Red Star, Will Wilson (2016); The Enclave: Richard Mosse (201415) featuring work by the Irish contemporary conceptual photographer; The Question of Hope: Robert Adams in Western Oregon (201314); and Josh Kline: Freedom, which is currently on view. Ferriso has also focused on transparency and accountability to the Museum’s community, including a commitment to the tradition of annual Board Meetings open to the full Museum membership and attended by hundreds of members of the public.