Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Announces the Selection of SmithGroup to Design Expansion

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts - Photo by Travis Fullerton, Copyright 2013 VMVA
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, Photo by Travis Fullerton, © 2013 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Today Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, Va. has announced that SmithGroup, one of the nation's leading integrated design firms, has been selected to lead the museum's upcoming expansion project. VMFA conducted a comprehensive international search for a design firm for the project that will address the tremendous growth of the museum's collections.

SmithGroup will design a new wing at the VMFA with state-of-the-art galleries and exhibition spaces as well as special events space with dining facilities. In addition to the new wing, SmithGroup will design renovations to the existing building to improve its gallery spaces, increase facilities for art storage, create new education classrooms, and upgrade the Leslie Clark Theater, Evans Court, and the 1936 Entrance.

The expansion and renovation project will support the museum's commitment to enhancing the visitor experience as well as its strategic plan calling for offering a range of curator-led, visitor-centered art experiences to engage a diverse audience.

"VMFA's mission for education throughout the Commonwealth and the region; its commitment to preserving its extraordinary collection of African and African American Art; its dedication to advancing Black and women artists; and its culture of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility resonated with each of us on the project team," said Jame Anderson, Cultural Practice Director at SmithGroup. "We believe this is a pivotal time for museums and recognize that the process and the physical design of a cultural entity speaks volumes about its values."

This is the fifth expansion project VMFA has undertaken since the museum's opening in 1936. The museum is planning to add more than 100,000 square feet of additional gallery and exhibition space in the new wing with new galleries for African art, photography and 21st century art, together with roughly 45,000 square feet of renovations to the existing building to create a seamless visitor experience. The expansion plans also include a new space devoted to collecting, caring for and exhibiting their ever-growing collection of nearly 26,000 works on paper.

"SmithGroup presented us with an inspired proposal that dovetailed beautifully with our desire to reimagine and transform the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts," said Michael R. Taylor, VMFA's Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education, who is the Project Director for the expansion and renovation project. "SmithGroup's passion for our institution, including our collections, staff and mission, was obvious during the selection and interview process. Their blend of technical expertise balanced with their exceptional conceptual ability makes them the ideal design partner and we look forward to our collaboration with them on this extraordinary building project."

SmithGroup's Cultural practice features an extensive portfolio of award-winning projects around the globe. Some of its recent national museum projects include the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collections and Conservation Center in Maryland, the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan, the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. SmithGroup is currently designing the re-envisioned Thomas Gilcrease Museum of American History and Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The firm's work is also recognized in Richmond, home to VMFA, where the firm has designed the concept for the Richmond National Slavery Museum at the Lumpkin's Slave Jail Site/Devil's Half Acre.

Design for the expansion is beginning now, and construction is expected to begin in summer of 2023, with the new wing tentatively slated for completion in 2025.


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The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts ( in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the largest comprehensive art museums in the United States. VMFA, which opened in 1936, is a state agency and privately endowed educational institution. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret art, and to encourage the study of the arts. Through the Office of Statewide Partnerships program, the museum offers curated exhibitions, arts-related audiovisual programs, symposia, lectures, conferences, and workshops by visual and performing artists. In addition to presenting a wide array of special exhibitions, the museum provides visitors with the opportunity to experience a global collection of art that spans more than 6,000 years. VMFA’s permanent holdings encompass nearly 50,000 artworks including the largest public collection of Fabergé outside of Russia, the finest collection of Art Nouveau outside of Paris and one of the nation’s finest collections of American art. VMFA is also home to important collections of Chinese art, English silver, French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, British sporting art, and modern and contemporary art, as well as renowned South Asian, Himalayan, and African art.