The Clark Institute harbors one of the most important private art collections in the United States, but few people know that it has prosaic origins, as so many fortunes in fact do. When, after wandering in the Far West, Robert Sterling Clark moved to Paris in 1910, came in contact with the city’s elite circles, and met his wife-to-be, the actress Francine, he did so with the fortune that his grandfather had amassed in the manufacture of Singer sewing machines. These devices were the support, too, of a less vulgar endeavor of his, that of accumulating a sophisticated collection of artworks that ended up in New York. Later, with the nuclear menace and panic of the Cold War, Clark and his wife decided to transfer the paintings to Williamstown, a rural enclave in Massachusetts where in the year 1955 they inaugurated the Clark Art Institute, which since then has not ceased to attract tourists and connoisseurs alike, and has undergone several enlargements. The latest expansion has just been completed, bears the seal of Tadao Ando, contains 1,200 square meters, and has cost a sum of US$145 million.
Surrounded by an extraordinary landscape and scenery, the new pavilion is a horizontal construction protected by a slab of reinforced concrete, posed on the terrain in continuity with the previous buildings. The huge windows look out to an artificial lake that visually connects new to old, and which in winter, when frozen, serves as an ice skating rink for the more daring museumgoers.