WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute will unveil its reconceived campus and four new exhibits when it reopens on July 4, 2014.

At a press briefing Thursday in the penthouse conference room at the Clark's Manton Research Center, overlooking the western expanse of the art institute's 140-acre site, Tadao Ando, the world-renowned Japanese architect who designed the exhibition and research center, stated that he wanted to design a space that blended into the natural landscape.

"I wanted to create a space where people come to appreciate art," he said through his translator. "It's a dialogue viewers will have with the art pieces. I hope my space will provide them with an environment where they feel the pleasure of living in the moment."

Clark director Michael Conforti said the project, which includes the Stone Hill Center that opened in 2008, brings 97,000 square feet of space to the campus.

The project, which has been in development for 12 years, includes a new 42,650 square foot visitor center, renovation of the Manton Research Center and Museum Building, a major redesign of the Clark's grounds, and numerous features reflecting environmental sustainability.

The museum will inaugurate its newly reimagined facility with four exhibitions that are, Conforti said, "untypical of the Clark. We were very adamant that the first year be a review of the kind of things that could happen here that are unexpected."

"Make it New: Abstract Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, 1950-1975" will be curated by Harry Cooper, of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and David Breslin, associate director of the Clarks' Research and Academic Program and Associate Curator of Contemporary Projects. The exhibit runs through Oct. 13, 2014.

Conforti noted the Clark, which opened in 1955, has not historically featured abstract art. Introducing abstract art into the Clark mix now is appropriate, Conforti said "when the next generation of art students ... is working very diligently as historians in this field. This is our responsibility (to them).

"We also didn't want people to think that these are new buildings for old art. This is our way of saying that (the Clark) is a place where anything can happen."

Highlights of "Make It New " will include Jackson Pollock's "Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)" and Mark Rothko's "No. 1." Other featured artists include Jasper Johns, Helen Frankenthaler, and Robert Ryman.

"Raw Color: The Circles of David Smith," curated by Breslin, runs through Oct. 19, 2014 and includes nine sculptures and three paintings from the "artist's "Circle" series.

Smith's works were created and displayed in the artist's hometown of Bolton Landing, N.Y.

with the Adirondack landscape serving as a backdrop, Conforti said.

"It's thrilling to think [Smith's] two daughters ... see the Clark as an eastern point rural extension of the kind of environment which their father appreciated."

In a more traditional mode, "Case for Eternity: Ancient Ritual Bronzes from the Shanghai Museum" runs until Oct. 19, 2014 and continues the Clark's collaboration with the Chinese institution, Conforti said.

The 32 ancient Chinese bronze sculptures, some which date as far back as 1800 BCE, include a set of nine bells, a coiled snake-pattern drum base, and a bird-shaped wine vessel with an animal-shaped handle and beast's feet.

The curatorial team consists of assistant deputy director Tom Loughman and includes curators from the Clark and the Shanghai Museum.

"Photography and Discovery," which runs until Sept. 28, 2014, will be the inaugural exhibition in the new Manton Study Center for Works on Paper. The curator is Jay A. Clarke, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs at the Clark.

The materials in the museum's collection have been made available to the public by appointment, Conforti said. But in the newly renovated Manton Research Center, the public will be able to access them in a more easily accessible space.

To reach Edward Damon, email
edamon@thetranscript.com.