Although there are undoubtedly some museums and visitor attractions that are continuing to suffer from lower-than-usual visitor numbers since the pandemic struck, there is still plenty of investment in the museum sector today. This can be seen most clearly in the number of high-profile museums and galleries that are scheduled to open their doors to the public in 2023. From North America to East Asia, Central Europe and beyond, museum curators are currently putting the finishing touches to exhibitions in new – or expanded – institutions all over the world. What does 2023 have in store for museum-goers? Read on to find out.
1. The International African American Museum in Charleston
To begin with, one of the most hotly anticipated new museums of recent years is due to open its doors to the public by late January. The International African American Museum is ready to go from its site at Gadsden’s Wharf, a significant location given the nature of the history that will be covered by the museum’s galleries. Charleston in South Carolina was at the heart of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the United States for many years and most African Americans who came to North America during the 18th century are said to have passed through the infamous wharf.
The construction of the new museum began in January 2020 but it had a much longer history before it was finally brought to fruition. After almost two decades of planning, the museum was eventually given the go-ahead. According to the museum’s board, exhibitions will focus on sharing ‘untold stories’ of African American people at all points in their history in North America. Curators will blend classic techniques of storytelling with new approaches that are enhanced by innovative uses of technology and digital displays. Some $75 million was set aside for the construction of the museum with $25 million being raised from public donations.
2. The Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo
The Grand Egyptian Museum has been a long-awaited project. Like Charleston’s International African American Museum, this museum has been planned for at least twenty years. However, the Grand Egyptian Museum is different insofar as it has been under construction for much, much longer. In fact, various political and architectural reasons have caused its opening to be put back and put back over the last decade or so. Nevertheless, the museum now expects it to start welcoming visitors within the first half of 2023 because it is finally almost finished.
Given the huge amount of antiquities there are to store at the museum, it is hardly surprising to learn that this will be the globe’s largest archaeological museum complex when, at long last, it opens its doors. Located about a mile away from the world-famous Giza pyramid complex on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, the museum occupies a huge site of some 480,000 square metres so it could become even larger as the years go by. For now, it will house some of the most wonderful showpieces ever to have been collected by Egyptologists and archaeologists including many that go back to the reign of King Tutankhamun as well as many treasures from the earlier Pharaohs. In all, some 100,000 artefacts that date back to prehistoric times will be on view to the public – many of them for the first time. Pieces that were previously in storage in Luxor, Alexandria, Sohag and Beni Suef will now be on display together in their new permanent home.
3. The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
Slated for a public opening ceremony in May 2023, the Museum of Modern Art is already a well-established public institution in Poland. The authorities in the Polish capital decided that the museum’s former home – a Soviet building that was never designed as a purpose-built gallery for modern works of art – should be updated. In 2006, Warsaw’s local government announced that it would be staging an architectural competition to come up with a new design overlooking the Vistula River. Over a hundred submissions were accepted and the winning design was declared the following year by a Swiss architect named Christian Kerez.
Since then, a New York design studio has been asked to come up with a four-storey extension of the art museum. The newly designed gallery will not just operate as a place to display modern art, however. The studio involved, Thomas Phifer and Partners, has come up with a multi-functional space that will act as a cultural hub for the city where lectures and workshops can be held as well as offering increased gallery space. The new museum will also have an auditorium and a cinema when it reopens.
4. The Robot & AI Museum in Seoul
Another new museum that was designed by an architectural firm following an open submission competition process is the much-vaunted Robot & AI Museum in the South Korean capital. A Turkish firm, Melike Altinisik Architects – MAA – submitted the winning design to the Seoul Metropolitan Government after it announced that it wanted to pioneer a museum dedicated to artificial intelligence and robotics. The idea is to support public education in machine learning and robotic technologies, two areas that the South Korean economy has invested heavily in. Not only will the museum add to the public knowledge and interest in technology but it is also hoped that the institution will help the next generation of programmers and technology enthusiasts to access some of the most cutting-edge developments.
Located in the Chang-Dong neighbourhood of Seoul, this is the first museum anywhere in the country to be devoted to AI and robotics. Four stories will be given over to all things robot and computer-related with drones and other examples of self-learning systems on display throughout. Scheduled to open in July, the innovative museum covers some 7,400 square metres and has a distinctly round design. MMA’s idea was to create a space that felt futuristic as soon as visitors turned up. Interestingly robots have been deployed in the museum’s construction so it is already showcasing what technology can achieve even before it has officially opened its doors.
5. The Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh
Having first opened to the public way back in 1859, it is fair to say that the Scottish National Gallery is definitely not a new museum. Far from it, in fact. However, in January 2019, extensive work began at the site in central Edinburgh so that the amount of exhibition space on offer could be dramatically increased. The historic museum was built in the neo-classical style that was so popular in the UK during the 19th century. However, the new extension to the gallery will have a very different feel for visitors despite conforming to the various planning restrictions that are in place in this part of the Scottish capital.
Due to open at some point this summer, the museum’s new wing will face the city’s famous Princes Street Gardens, allowing pedestrian access to the gallery from the parkland below it. Situated on what is known as the Mound in Edinburgh, the architects involved in the project, Hoskins, have attempted to create an entirely new visitor experience with different routes in and out from how the gallery has traditionally been accessed. The newly updated art museum will be able to show more works in its collection, such as those by William McTaggart, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Phoebe Anna Traquair and Anne Redpath among others.
6. The Museum of Art and Photography in Bengaluru
Due to open in February, the Museum of Art and Photography in Bengaluru – looks set to become one of the most significant museums of any kind in Karnataka State. The southern city of Bengaluru was chosen as the ideal location for a new visual art museum that would cover all sorts of visual media of the last thousand years or so from the sub-continent. All of South Asian art’s many diverse styles will be represented at the new gallery, located on the busy Kasturba Road in the city. When it opens its doors, admittance to the museum will be free for all but special exhibitions will be only possible to view with a ticket.
The museum is already the custodian of a substantial collection of works by Indian artists. In all, some 60,000 artworks have already been added to the collection. It is hoped that the new home for this art will mean that viewers can engage with a ‘comprehensive journey’ of Indian visual culture. In addition to the many paintings and prints that the museum has in its collection are a number of 21st-century artworks that are completely digital in their nature. As such, although the museum has not yet opened to the public, a taster of what will be on offer can be obtained via the gallery’s website where some of these digital pieces are already available to view. Painted Stitches, Woven Stories-II, a digital exhibition that focusses on Indian fabric designs over the years, has been part of the gallery’s online offering since February 2022, for example. The mainstay of the pieces is drawn from a private collection owned by Abhishek Poddar, an industrialist who was the driving force behind the establishment of the museum.
7. The Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation in New York
Due to open on February 17th, the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation is officially part of the famous American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Located on the Upper West side of the city’s Central Park, the site is already one of the most visited museums in North America. As of this year, its offering will be vastly increased thanks to the edition of the new education centre. Designed by Studio Gang, the centre has a very different look and feel from the rest of the museum and is full of amorphous shapes with plenty of natural light. The idea is to afford visitors an immersive experience when they enter the museum’s new wing. The Richard Gilder Center will be a distinct entity and will boast its own entrance located on Columbus Avenue.
According to the museum’s board, the educational centre will offer up to 21,000 square metres of new exhibition space. This will be primarily devoted to insects and microscopic creatures, including prehistoric species as well as contemporary ones. A vivarium has been added to the structure, too. This will house up to 80 different species of moths and butterflies. A full-height atrium has also been added which will be the museum’s centrepiece. Spread over three storeys, the new exhibition space will offer the chance to see much more of the natural history museum’s permanent collection with the notable addition of numerous floor-to-ceiling display stands. 2023 is the museum’s 150th anniversary and the addition of the centre is set to be the highlight of its year.
8. The Manchester Museum in Greater Manchester
Founded in 1867, the Manchester Museum has been devoted to the public education of archaeology, anthropology and natural history ever since it was first established. Officially part of the University of Manchester, the museum’s collection has been housed in the neo-Gothic buildings that made up the city campus of the university when it was first built. However, a redevelopment programme was announced in August 2021 with a £15 million budget that would, it was hoped, bring the museum into the 21st century. With much of the construction phase over, the new museum looks set to be open in February 2023. Although the old facade was listed and could not be replaced, the architectural firm involved in the redevelopment project, Purcell, decided that a two-storey extension in a much more modern style would help to update the site.
Clad in green-glazed terracotta tiling, the new building adds a significant amount of space to the museum. The new gallery space will be devoted to a brand-new exhibition hall that will house rotating temporary exhibitions. In addition, a gallery dedicated to the museum’s South Asian collection will be established as well as one devoted to East Asian culture, known as the Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery. In turn, this will free up some space in other parts of the museum for more of the current collection to go on display than ever before. Part of the Manchester Museum’s new gallery space will be curated in conjunction with the British Museum.
9. The Art Museum in Busan
Located on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, Busan has been home to a culturally significant art museum since 1998. In fact, the Busan Museum of Art was awarded the prize of excellence in museum management and operation and cultural facilities in 2000 when it also claimed the gold prize in the architectural awards of Busan. Little wonder, then, that a new art gallery would have to be of significant cultural value in its own right to compete with a city museum that was already well-established in the eyes of locals.
This is exactly what a new art gallery in the city is seeking to do with the renovation of a former industrial site in the middle of Busan. A design company, D’strict, was brought in to add something completely new and they came up with a cladding system that allows the art gallery to project any image it likes on the outside of the building, making it appear as if it contains a rolling wave, for example. Projections, three-dimensional images, light and sound all combine to make the new gallery very different from anything that has come before. Such has been the early feedback regarding the art museum, which will house many examples of digital art, that the designers have already begun work on an outpost gallery. This is said to be destined for Hong Kong and could be ready to launch as soon as 2024.
10. The Holocaust Museum in Toronto
Established by some 35 Holocaust survivors in the mid-1980s as a place that would be dedicated to sharing stories with students, the Holocaust Museum of Toronto has been undergoing a significant refit in recent years. Thanks to a $12 million contribution from the Azrieli Foundation and other fundraising efforts, the museum will be updated to become a state-of-the-art facility for education and reflection. Well-known for their work in the museum sector, the architectural firm Reich and Petch were given the job of designing the new layout for the museum’s board.
The overhaul of the museum was partly conducted because there are so few survivors of the Holocaust left in Canada. As such, it was thought that addressing the needs of younger people would be more appropriate for the museum’s continued use. According to the institution, the newly revamped site will mean the museum remains a centre of excellence and innovation in Holocaust education. It will now serve as a forum for dialogue among present and future generations, offering a collaborative space where community partners can convene with one another.
It looks to be an exciting year ahead for the world of museums.