Walters to buy building for $1.5 million


The Walters Art Museum announced yesterday plans to purchase a 36,000-square-foot building at Park Avenue and Centre Street from the Maryland Historical Society for $1.5 million.

The 77-year-old, three-story building currently houses the Contemporary Museum, the Maryland Humanities Council and storage space for the Maryland Historical Society.

Its purchase will be made possible through a gift from an anonymous donor, Walters officials said.

"Buying this building is a golden opportunity for the Walters," William Paternotte, president of the Walters' board of directors, said in a statement. "The board saw the purchase as an essential component of the future expansion of the Museum, and consistent with the Walters' strategic plan."

In the city's Mount Vernon Cultural District, the Walters is renowned for its collections of ancient and medieval art and illuminated manuscripts and decorative objects.

The Walters Art Museum, currently housed in four buildings, long has needed additional exhibition space. In recent years, its permanent collections have grown significantly -- due in part to gifts of Asian art from Baltimore collectors John and Berthe Ford and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and pre-Colombian artifacts from the Austen-Stokes Ancient Americas Foundation.

"We're hiring a master planner, probably an architect, to look at the space," said Amy Mannarino, museum spokeswoman.

"We haven't made any decisions about how we're going to use the space. We're pretty much in partnership with the Contemporary."

A foursquare, limestone building in a commercial neo-classical style, the space was designed for Home Mutual Insurance Co. by Clyde M. Fritz, the architect of the Enoch Pratt Free Library's central library.

The Walters will continue its partnership with the Contemporary Museum, Mannarino said. In February, the two museums will present a joint exhibition titled Louise Bourgeois: Femme. Bourgeois is a contemporary artist prolific in many media, but most famous for her idiosyncratic modern sculptures.

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