Expansion of St. Louis Art Museum gets go-ahead

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 | 10:33 a.m. CST

ST. LOUIS — A $130.5 million expansion of the St. Louis Art Museum is no longer on hold.

The museum in Forest Park announced the go-ahead for the expansion on Tuesday — 13 months after weakening credit markets and the sour economy delayed the project.

Officials said the actual work will begin immediately on the expansion that has been in the planning stages for more than a decade. The new wings are expected to open in about two years, and the museum will remain open during construction.

With the expansion, the free-admission museum will be able to display more of its 30,000-piece collection. It is particularly known for its Oceanic art, pre-Columbian art, ancient Chinese bronzes, and European and American art of the late 19th and 20th centuries. The collection includes works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and many others.

"The St. Louis Art Museum is one of our nation's most valuable cultural assets," said John Weil, president of the museum's Board of Commissioners. "This expansion is our generation's contribution to the future of this great St. Louis institution."

Construction originally scheduled to begin in late 2008 was delayed because of the economic uncertainty. But museum officials said market conditions have improved, the capital campaign was well-received and negotiations with contractors were successful.

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