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Mingei International Museum reopens following three-year transformational renovation

Mingei International Museum

The Mingei International Museum in San Diego reopens to the public today after an extensive $55m renovation and expansion project.

Located in the city’s historic Balboa Park, an area with 17 museums and cultural institutions including the San Diego Natural History Museum, the Mingei International Museum’s mission is to present everyday art objects from around the world.

Accessibility, functionality and full integration

The renovation and expansion project at the Mingei (meaning folk craft) was developed by architect Jennifer Luce and focused on accessibility, functionality and full integration of Mingei’s commitment to art, craft and design throughout the building.

Established in 1978 the Mingei moved to and renovated a Spanish Colonial building known as the House of Charm in 1996.

This latest renovation of the building has created new entrances to the museum and reconfigured redundant spaces such as a non-functioning loading dock into a new flexible 120-seat theatre with a retractable 40-foot glass wall opening onto a new amphitheatre.

The new theatre at the Mingei International Museum transformed from a disused loading dock

It also adds 10,000 sq ft of exhibition and programming space and the creation of an education centre, bistro, shop and coffee bar.

“As an institution, we approached this project as a combination of three essential and interrelated components connected to our mission: Access, Art and Architecture,” said Director and CEO Rob Sidner. “We are confident that the new Mingei will be a cultural anchor in Balboa Park and a source of inspiration for the San Diego region and our national and international visitors.”

The main floor of the Museum is now accessible from the outdoor areas of the Plaza de Panama and Alcazar Garden and an outdoor courtyard forms the ‘living room for the park’ providing gathering space and a ‘warm welcome to Park visitors’.

Sense of exploration and discovery

“Opening a new entry point – connecting Alcazar Garden continuously through the ground-level open and public spaces to the Plaza de Panama – provides the public a sense of exploration and discovery,” said Sidner.

The upstairs Gallery level will include newly configured, flexible gallery spaces totalling 15,000 square feet and host Mingei’s Art Reference Library and the Founders’ Gallery

Two upper-level terraces, overlooking the Plaza de Panama, will be open to the public for the first time in decades.

Exhibition space leads on to dining space

According to the museum, a highlight of the renovation is the reveal of a grand new staircase leading to the second-level galleries, set in the building’s historic Tower, a space never before occupied. It displays the museum’s Dale Chihuly glass sculpture and the Mingei International Museum’s chandelier, which will be suspended over the staircase.

Mingei’s inaugural exhibitions will be Global Spirit – Folk Art from the Ted Cohen Collection and Humble Spirit/Priceless Art, both drawn from the Museum’s notable collection of folk art, craft and design from around the world.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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