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Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Established 1973
Location Central & University Avenues, Ithaca, New York
Director Franklin W. Robinson
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
The Johnson Museum of Art, South elevation

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art ("The Johnson Museum") is an art museum located on the northwest corner of the Arts Quad on the main campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. It is most well known for its controversial concrete facade, its collection which includes two windows from Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D. Martin House, and more than 30,000 other works.

President Deane Waldo Malott established the original University Art Museum in 1953. The A. D. White House was renovated to house Cornell's art collections.[1] The current museum, constructed in 1973, is named after its primary benefactor, Herbert Fisk Johnson, Jr., a Cornell Class of 1922 graduate, head of S.C. Johnson & Sons of Racine, Wisconsin ("Johnson Wax"), and a former member of the university's Board of Trustees.



The Johnson Museum of Art was designed by architect I.M. Pei. It can be characterized by its top two floors, which cantilever over the open aired sculpture garden. It was designed so that it would not block the view of Cayuga Lake, and offers a panoramic view of the same from its fifth floor. It also houses a room for meetings.

The unique location of the museum presented several architectural challenges; building space was limited, and it could not overwhelm the view of Cayuga Lake or the nearby Arts Quad. Moreover, it would sit atop the knoll where tradition said Ezra Cornell chose the site for his university, at the north end of the Stone Row of McGraw, Morrill, and White Halls.[2] The resulting design was a narrow tower and a bridge, which critics have likened to a giant sewing machine.[3]

One element of the original design, which was never constructed, was an underground Asian art gallery which would have included windows breaching the Southern face of Fall Creek Gorge.


To meet the needs of the expanding collection, Cornell will construct a new wing next to the original building. The extension will mirror the original plans drawn up by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, and is expected to be completed by 2010.[4]


The permanent collection consists of more than 30,000 works of art. Most notable is the George and Mary Rockwell Asian Art collection. There are also extensive holdings of American artists, including Stuart Davis and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as members of the Hudson River School and the American Impressionists to contemporary art. The Collection of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs consists of more than 15,000 works. Its fifth floor observation level houses the museum's extensive Asian collection.


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