WATERVILLE, Maine — Colby College in Waterville announced Wednesday that its art museum will open a large expansion on July 13, 2013, at which time it will become the physically largest facility of its kind in Maine.

The opening of the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion will showcase the Colby College Museum of Art’s recent acquisition of the Lunder Collection, which has been assessed by art historians as one of the most important holdings of American art ever assembled by private collectors. The collection, donated to Colby by the Lunder family in September 2012, is valued at $100 million, and contains works ranging from Colonial -ra portraits to contemporary works by Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt, Kara Walker and Alex Katz, according to the college.

In 2007 Peter and Paula Lunder, longtime benefactors of Colby College, promised their collection of more than 500 works of art to the Colby College Museum of Art. Peter Lunder is a former president of Dexter Shoe Co., which the late Harold Alfond founded in 1956. Lunder, Alfond’s nephew, maintains homes in both Maine and Boston; he is also a Colby College alumnus.

“Until now, our museum may have been something of an underappreciated gem — though not to our students, faculty and alumni and the citizens of Maine, who have embraced it as one of their finest resources,” said Colby President William D. Adams, in a news release. “But now, as we celebrate the bicentennial of the college, we can look forward as never before to welcoming visitors from around the country and the world who are going to discover that our museum has risen toward the top in its field.”

Designed by the Los Angeles-based firm Frederick Fisher and Partners Architects, the 26,000-square-foot pavilion will create a light-filled gateway to the existing museum, while providing an additional 10,000 square feet of exhibition space, bringing the total square footage of the museum to 54,000 square feet. Described as a “refined and minimalist” building by Colby officials, the structure will now be the main entrance to the museum, providing a spacious lobby that will include a sculpture gallery and terrace, as well as new exhibition galleries, classrooms, studio space for students and faculty, a conference room and staff offices.

“This new pavilion is conceived as a glass prism that will reflect its natural and architectural context in continuously changing images,” said architect Frederick Fisher. “The reflecting nature of the glass expresses the theme that art provides the opportunity to reflect on life. This was central to the museum’s position as a beacon of creativity and innovation on campus.”

The inaugural exhibition in the new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion will be “The Lunder Collection: A Gift of Art to Colby College,” which will showcase works by the likes of American masters including John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, George Inness, William Merritt Chase, Winslow Homer, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Edward Hopper, Alexander Calder and Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as important contemporary American works by Alex Katz, Louise Nevelson, Romare Bearden, Donald Judd, John Chamberlain, George Rickey and Jenny Holzer, among others. Of special note is the extensive collection of works by James McNeill Whistler, as well as 40 examples of Chinese ritual and mortuary ceramics dating from the prehistoric period to the 12th and 13th century Jin Dynasty.

“Maine has always had a special place in the history of American art, just as this museum has won the loyalty of a wide spectrum of people, from schoolchildren in Waterville to some of America’s most outstanding contemporary artists,” said Sharon Corwin, the Carolyn Muzzy director and chief curator of the Colby College Museum of Art. “Because of this wide support and the contributions of our generous donors, the cultural map of Maine, and indeed America, is now about to change.”

The donation of the Lunder Collection was announced as a promised gift in 2007. In 2009, the College approved the designs for the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, named in recognition of a gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation and the partnership and friendship between Harold Alfond and Peter Lunder. The museum formally took possession of the works in the Lunder Collection in September 2012, as construction was proceeding on the pavilion.

The Museum was founded in 1959, and with the expansion will now hold 8,000 works of art and have 35,000 square feet of exhibition space. Selected galleries are open throughout the construction period. Admission is free. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For additional information, visit colby.edu/museum, or like them on Facebook.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.