Museum Building

In 1952, construction began on a white marble building to house the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. After a lengthy search process, Sterling Clark chose Daniel Perry as the architect. Clark himself became highly involved in the building's creation, living in a small apartment in the back galleries of the museum when he and Francine arrived for stays in Williamstown. His desire for domestic gallery spaces was manifested in the design, including intimate galleries with large windows providing views of the nearby pond and pastures.
In 1955, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute opened its doors under the guidance of its first director, former silver dealer Peter Guille. Only two galleries were on view and a majority of the collection were not displayed. Over the next few years, the Clark slowly unveiled its treasures in several exhibitions. From the beginning, the Clark received critical acclaim, heralded in the Berkshire Evening Eagle as “a mecca of the art world” and celebrated as a “cultural asset” for Berkshire County and the Williams College community. The Boston Sunday Globe praised its incredibly modern and innovative lighting and climate control systems. Even with such high praise and expectations, none could have imagined what the Institute would become in the next half-century.

Selldorf Architects' thoughtful renovation of the Museum Building included dividing the corridor—which previously separated the galleries overlooking Schow Pond from the central galleries—into a sequence of intimate spaces. The rectangular plan of the former entry lobby and side spaces was turned into a square sculpture court, allowing the flanking spaces to grow in size and become elegant rectangular galleries for porcelain and other decorative arts, displayed in cabinets designed by Selldorf.

Offices and restrooms were reconfigured into gallery spaces, allowing the entire first floor of the Museum Building to be dedicated to art. Selldorf worked closely with the Clark’s curatorial team on the selection of wall colors and finishes for the reinstalled galleries and created elegant new casework and vitrines for the decorative arts collection, along with custom-designed furniture. In keeping with Sterling Clark’s tastes, side windows and skylights still bathe the artwork in natural light and offer visitors pastoral views of the surrounding landscape. New environmental systems and lighting work together to bring the building to the highest museum standards.