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Museum won't open until 2005

Although the Nasher Museum of Art is almost two years behind schedule, the plans for the upcoming West Campus attraction are nearing their final stage with an even larger budget.

The building's designs, which date back to spring 2000 and have caused most of the delay, will be completed by the end of September. Construction should begin in the next year and is scheduled to take 20 months, said Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, putting the museum well behind its original scheduled 2003 opening.

"It's taken longer than I hoped, but now it's ready to go," Trask said.

The budget for the new museum--which will bear the name of Dallas philanthropist Raymond Nasher in honor of his $7.5 million gift in Nov. 1998--is also tentatively increasing to $23 million from an earlier projection of between $15 million and $19 million.

The additional funds will enable the University to complete the architectural designs and make the museum "everything we wanted it to be," said Michael Mezzatesta, director of the art museum.

Mezzatesta, who has met with architect Rafael Viñoly's head assistants weekly to perfect the designs, said the process was lengthy but constructive. The result is a particularly efficient gallery where almost all of the space can be used to display art.

"The design process has been very careful and exhaustive," Mezzatesta said. "I've been waiting for this a very long time and learned that patience is a virtue. There have been moments of disappointment, but now we can see a world-class facility on the horizon."

Meanwhile, the Duke University Museum of Art on East Campus remains the University's art museum and as people donate art works for the new museum, one of DUMA's galleries has become a storage room and cannot be used for exhibitions.

When Nasher is completed, DUMA's space will house offices for Arts and Sciences departments. A task force is currently considering who will be placed in the space. William Chafe, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, said timing is a consideration, but that the museum's delays are not yet significantly impacting his planning.

To ensure that Arts and Sciences maintains the necessary amount of office space, the construction of the art museum will coordinate with that of the Perkins Library renovations, said Robert Byrd, chair of the Perkins Library Renovations Committee. The library renovations--which begin planning after the new museum but will begin construction sooner--will displace those departments currently located in the Foreign Languages building, such as Romance Languages.

"It's not clear what the impact [of further delay] could be," Byrd said. "There very well could be conflicts, but we are not aware of them yet."

Provost Peter Lange said the completed museum will warrant the long planning. Nasher will have five individual pavilions linked by a 9,000-square foot courtyard.

DUMA currently displays a model of the museum, which will include a 20th century international art gallery, a special exhibitions gallery, a permanent collections gallery, a 150-seat auditorium and an office facility.

"It's been the University's goal to have a museum of national quality since before I was here," Lange said. "Obviously, we'd like to have the new museum in place at the earliest convenience."

When it is completed, Nasher will be located on a nine-acre site adjacent to the Sarah P Duke Gardens. The location was chosen because the gardens are the fourth-largest tourist attraction in North Carolina.

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