Press \\ Press Release

Peabody Essex Museum Details Opening of Its New $125M Wing

Released July 12, 2019

September 21st Gala Kicks Off Opening Week Celebrations

Members Receive Advanced Access to Explore New Spaces, Installations, and Newly Commissioned Art Experiences

SALEM, MA — The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM)—one of the oldest and fastest growing museums in the country—announces several opportunities to experience its new 40,000-square-foot wing designed by Ennead Architects. The $125M expansion, a component of the museum’s $650M Connect Campaign, features 15,000-square-feet of new gallery space, a light-filled atrium, an entry for school and group tours, linkages to existing galleries and a 5,000-square-foot garden designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. The new wing and adjacent renovated galleries will feature fresh installations of the museum’s superlative collections and exciting new commissioned work by contemporary artists. When the new wing opens, Salem, Massachusetts will become one of the nation’s largest art museum destinations, located outside of a major urban center.

PEM CONTINUUM GALA & ART PARTY: A New Wing Celebration | Saturday, September 21 |
Come celebrate the opening of PEM's new expansion with a night of dinner, drinks, live music, performances, and unforgettable experiences. Be the first to explore three new floors of art, culture and design as well as experience the museum's stunning new atrium and garden. Engage with fresh collection-inspired installations, meet contemporary artists and fall in love with PEM all over again. Tickets available at Follow along and share your excitement using: #PEMgala #newPEM

VISITING COMMITTEE RECEPTIONS | Sunday, September 22 - Wednesday, September 25
PEM’s Visiting Committees are a select group of East India Marine Associates at and above the Director’s Circle level, with interests in specific collection areas. For those who want to get to know and support a particular collection and its curatorial initiatives, a Visiting Committee is designed for you. As ambassadors for the museum and for each committee, these groups create a sustained community of dedicated individuals with shared interests and passion for art and culture. Please contact for more information.

PRESS PREVIEW RECEPTION | Wednesday, September 25 | 5 - 7 PM
Members of the press are invited to a special reception and behind-the-scenes tour of PEM’s new wing and installations. PEM’s newly appointed Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO, Brian Kennedy, will lead the evening’s program alongside Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, PEM’s James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Deputy Director and Chief Curator. Learn about the architectural design process from Richard Olcott of Ennead Architects, and experience tours of PEM’s new galleries with PEM’s award-winning curatorial team. Formal invitation to follow. RSVP to

PEM’s East India Marine Associates (EIMA) are the cornerstone of the museum’s annual giving program. EIMA members collectively contribute more than $1.7 million per year to support the museum’s core curatorial, educational, exhibition, and public programs. To become an EIMA member and participate in this special reception, please contact for more information.

MEMBER & CORPORATE MEMBER OPEN HOUSE | Thursday, September 26 | 10 AM - 8PM
MEMBER & CORPORATE MEMBER OPEN HOUSE | Friday, September 27 | 10 AM - 5PM

Experience all that PEM has to offer—as a member. Your membership support enables the museum to present superb exhibitions and share outstanding works of art, culture and creative expression with the world. You receive unlimited, free PEM admission, invitations to exhibition previews and receptions, curator-led gallery talks, special Museum Shop sales and events. Please contact to become a member and experience PEM’s new wing before it opens to the public.

Corporate members help advance PEM’s mission while receiving an array of benefits, including up to 40%-off event space rental in the museum’s new 8,000-square-foot atrium and 5,000-square-foot garden. PEM offers unique opportunities for you and your business to achieve valuable exposure, fulfill your philanthropic goals and connect to your passions, all while reaching PEM’s diverse audiences. Please contact to become a corporate member and experience PEM’s new wing before it opens to the public.

Join PEM’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO Brian Kennedy during this special new wing celebration to officially kick off the museum’s newest and most exciting chapter yet. Tour the new space, enjoy live music, art making and performances throughout the day. General admission is free.

PUBLIC OPENING | Sunday, September 29 | 10 AM - 5 PM | FREE
PEM’s public opening continues. Tour the new wing, enjoy live music, art making, and performances throughout the day. General admission is free.

PEM’s new wing and renovated galleries offer a distinctive experience that is designed to heighten feelings of surprise, wonder, delight, and reflection. Fresh installations celebrate the museum’s vast and storied collection in ways that address eternal themes as well as the urgent questions of our time. Visitors will find never-before-seen, rarely-exhibited and recently-acquired artworks on view in addition to newly commissioned artworks by contemporary artists.

“PEM is committed to creating museum experiences that are deeply meaningful and have a lasting impact on people’s lives,” said Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, PEM’s James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Deputy Director and Chief Curator. “Our teams of curatorial, interpretation, exhibition design and integrated media staff have worked hand-in-hand to develop installations that offer the unexpected and maximize engagement by capturing visitors’ attention, heightening their emotional experience and creating enduring memories.”


On the first floor, PEM’s Maritime Art collection, which is the finest of its kind in the country, frames the sea as an enduring source of opportunity as well as peril, a force that inspires creativity and innovation, and encourages engagement with the wider world. The installation offers a global perspective on our relationship to the sea, placing, for example, a Maori paddle from the Cook Islands and a brass Pakistani astrolabe from the 17th-century in conversation with Salem’s rich history of maritime trade and exploration. Immersive digital media amplify the compelling stories behind unassuming objects, like a calendar stick from 1803 with notches carved to record the long days Rhode Island native, James Drown, spent shipwrecked and left for dead on Tristan Da Cunha, a remote speck island in the South Atlantic.


On the second floor, PEM’s Asian Export Art collection, foremost in the world, explores cross-cultural exchange as a catalyst for creativity and celebrates the interplay of commerce and creative expression. More than 200 works of art made in diverse media by artists in China, Japan, and South Asia, demonstrate the beauty and ingenuity of transcultural objects that are created through blending artistic traditions, materials, and technologies. Porcelain, textiles, tea, ivory, and silver were the focus of intensive trade activity between East and West and the legacy of these exchanges continues today in both positive and negative ways. For the first time, PEM’s Asian Export Art installation will examine the long tail effect of the opium trade and how it has contributed to today’s opioid crisis.


On the third floor, the Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery of Fashion and Design invites visitors to consider that we are designing creatures who continually manipulate, respond to, and mold our changing world. Whether designing for self-adornment or for use, this installation unifies two traditionally disparate collecting fields to better understand what underlies our motivations and capacity for designing ourselves and the world around us. Ensembles from Iris Apfel’s Rare Bird of Fashion collection celebrate the exuberant remixing and inventive styling of one of the world’s most prominent fashion icons, while constellations of unique and culturally significant works of design, fashion, and textiles explore distinctive and resourceful forms of creative expression.


Elsewhere in the museum, two contemporary artists were invited to create original artworks as a creative response to PEM’s collection. Taking Place is a wall painting installation by Savannah-based artist, Vanessa Platacis, who researched the museum’s vast and varied collection to find unexpected connections across time, cultures and materials. Platacis turned her findings into a landscape of paintings created with 210 canvas stencils—all drawn and cut by hand. Organic forms and curvilinear lines emerged as unifying design motifs that speak to the natural world and celebrate larger-than-life presentations of familiar and unexpected objects. Charles Sandison: Figurehead 2.0 activates the museum’s founding building, East India Marine Hall, with an immersive digital environment that draws upon PEM’s deep collection of 18th-century ships logs. Sandison’s responsive algorithmic code, based on patterns he observes in nature—the movements of ants or bodies passing through water—combines the movement of museumgoers in the space with historical data to create an ever-changing, lyrical tapestry of past and present.


Adjacent to the new wing, renovated galleries feature new installations of the collection. Powerful Figures gathers eight sculptures from disparate cultures around the world and across time that embody the dual concepts of power, as both a fundamental social dynamic and part of our innate wiring to respond to figures and faces. Curved niches encourage visitors to engage individually with each artwork, like Alison Saar’s 2012 sculpture Weight. Poetically concise labels heighten the emotional tenor of the experience.


A new gallery dedicated to showcasing works from the museum’s research library opens with The Creative Legacy of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Selections from the Phillips Library Collection. Nathaniel Hawthorne is integral to Salem’s rich history, and PEM’s Phillips Library collection includes over 3,000 individual volumes by the author. Focusing on the visual artistry of bookmaking and printing, from cover designs to typography, this exhibition highlights the full creativity present in books as literature and art objects.


Thought-provoking and dramatic works are installed at regular intervals throughout the museum, including Yoan Capote’s Immanence, a monumental steel sculpture of Fidel Castro created from thousands of rusted door hinges that provides a collective portrait of Cuba’s resilient citizens. Elsewhere, Kūkaʻilimoku, a rare Native Hawaiian temple image of the god Kū, is installed in a place of prominence in PEM’s new atrium, positioned facing west toward Hawaii.


Concurrent to the opening of the new wing, PEM is pleased to open two new exhibitions this fall. PEM is the exclusive East Coast venue for Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction, the most comprehensive examination of this innovative and prolific mid-century American painter. Through approximately 80 paintings and works on paper from 1930 through the end of Hofmann’s life in 1966, explore the artist's journey into abstraction, and his deep contribution to the artistic landscape of New England. Following a year of creative exploration with the public, artist Wes Sam-Bruce presents Where the Questions Live, a multi-sensory, immersive installation in PEM’s Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center. The experience is a curiosity-driven, format-bending romp that adventurously investigates the connections, metaphors, and experiences of human beings within the natural world.


  1. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Aislinn Weidele of Ennead Architects.
  2. Stern detail of Bassett-Lowke LTD, Model of RMS Queen Elizabeth, 1947–1948. White mahogany, gunmetal, brass. Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of Cunard Line Ltd.. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Bob Packert.
  3. Chinese artist, charger with the arms of Leake Okeover, 1740-1743. Porcelain. Museum purchase. Object E82042. © Peabody Essex Museum.
  4. Sebastian Errazuriz, 12 Shoes for 12 Lovers (The Gold Digger, The Heartbreaker, The Boss), 2013. 3d-printed abs plastic, resin, acrylic. Museum purchase. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Kathy Tarantola.
  5. Detail from artist Vanessa Platacis installation, Taking Place. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Bob Packert.
  6. Alison Saar, Weight, 2012. Museum Purchase. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography Courtesy of L.A. Louver Gallery.
  7. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, ca. 1850. Paper; book. Library call number Clark A16.1. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Walter Silver.
  8. Installation image of Yoan Capote, Immanence, 2015. © Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Ken Sawyer.
  9. Hans Hofmann, Indian Summer, 1959. Oil on canvas. University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Gift of the artist. © The Regents of the University of California. Photography by Jonathan Bloom.

High-resolution images and captions are available at

Share your impressions and follow along using #NewPEM

Over the last 20 years, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in North America. Founded in 1799, it is also the country’s oldest continuously operating museum. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. The museum's collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time -- including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, Native American, Oceanic, and African art, as well as one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts. PEM's campus affords a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities and performance spaces. Twenty-two noted historic structures grace PEM’s campus, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house that is the only such example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $6 (plus museum admission). Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang. INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit

Whitney Van Dyke | Director of Communications | | 978-542-1828