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New Home for McMullen

Gift will enable University’s art museum to move to roomier quarters on Brighton Campus

How the new McMullen Museum of Art at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue will look when completed in 2016. (Image courtesy of DiMella Shaffer Associates)

By Rosanne Pellegrini | Chronicle Staff

Published: Dec. 4, 2014

The McMullen Museum of Art, which has offered world-class exhibitions in Devlin Hall since 1993, will soon occupy a new and enlarged space on Boston College’s Brighton Campus. 

Thanks to a lead gift to the “Light the World” campaign from the McMullen Family Foundation, construction is now underway at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue for a new McMullen Museum of Art, located in the former residence of Boston’s Cardinal Archbishop. 

The new venue, projected to be completed in 2016, includes more than 26,000 gross-square feet of space and nearly doubles the current exhibition area in Devlin.    

“We are grateful to the McMullen family for their contribution, which will provide a wonderful resource for Boston College and the region,” said Senior Vice President for Advancement James Husson. “The new museum will be a welcome addition to the BC campus,” he said, adding that “there are still a number of naming opportunities available for those interested in supporting this important endeavor.”

The McMullen Museum has won critical acclaim from national and international media. 

In its presentation of groundbreaking retrospectives on renowned artists – such as Edvard Munch, Paul Klee, Georges Rouault, Gustave Courbet, and most recently, Wifredo Lam –the museum, art critics say, provides the Greater Boston community with a close-up and often exclusive view of diverse and outstanding art. 

The building, designed by Boston architects Maginnis and Walsh and built in 1927 in the Roman Renaissance Revival Style, will feature main galleries on the second floor, with a smaller gallery and support space on the third. The first floor will serve as a University conference center, while its reception rooms will display old master and 19th-century American paintings from the museum’s permanent collection.   

“With state-of-the-art technology and movable walls, the enlarged galleries of the new museum will allow for greater flexibility to expand and/or mount simultaneous displays,” said McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. 

“These new spaces will provide enhanced opportunities for faculty research to inform exhibitions and student instruction across disciplines, especially in the field of museum studies. The addition will also enhance the visitor experience, inviting even more of the Greater Boston community to participate in our programming,” said Netzer.

The new museum is made possible through the support of longtime benefactors and namesakes the late John McMullen, a former Boston College trustee and trustee associate, and his wife, Jacqueline, who shared a deep interest in art and collecting. 

“The new facility will provide a more welcoming and accessible venue with expanded features for members of the community,” said Jacqueline McMullen, whose family’s connection to Boston College spans three generations. “We hope to share the museum’s groundbreaking exhibitions with an even wider audience.

“Our hopes are for a university museum that focuses on scholarly research and on educating the next generation of museum goers, curators, and trustees. The McMullen Family Foundation has always had the education of students and the public at large as one of its primary goals. Through this new museum we endeavor to foster a heightened appreciation and enthusiasm for art among BC and other Boston-area students.”  

Associate Vice President of Capital Projects Management Mary Nardone said that while the renovation of the building will preserve the exterior façade, there will be an addition of approximately 7,000 square feet to increase its functionality. “Working with the architect DiMella Shaffer Associates and the contractor Consigli Construction, the goal was to create a design that is fitting for the museum, without competing with the special nature of the architecture of the existing building,” said Nardone. 

The new glass entrance area will provide generous natural light, and “the entry will provide an opportunity for visitors to see beyond the new addition to the formal lawn, while the third floor will include outdoor space that will provide wonderful views of the Brighton Campus,” said Nardone.

The McMullen Museum will remain operational in Devlin Hall until the new museum is completed. It will continue to be free and open to the public.