At the current Overton Park-based Brooks Museum of Art, the past meets glimpses of the future in the exhibition room to the east of the front desk; where patrons can catch a peek of the long beloved museum’s destiny as “the cultural center of Downtown, Memphis and beyond.”
The current stately museum, constructed in 1916, stands as a landmark of days gone by and boasts early-twentieth century classical architecture.
The Brooks of 2026 couldn’t be more different.
The new museum is part of a reimagined, six-mile riverfront, planned by Chicago-based design firm, Studio Gang, in conjunction with SCAPE – New York, the Mayor’s Riverfront Task Force and the Memphis River Parks Partnership.
“We asked the architectural team, which consists of international design firm Herzog de Meuron in conjunction with Midtown Memphis’ own Archimania, for an inspiring work of architecture that would welcome the local community, the surrounding tri-state region of West Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi, and indeed, the entire world,” said Carl Person, Brooks Museum Board of Directors. “We got that and more.”
“I have no doubt that the new Brooks will become a civic space for the people of Memphis,” stated Mayor Jim Strickland. “Our city has long been known as a pilgrimage site for lovers of music and Southern food folkways; soon we will be better able to share the visual art of our region and the stories embedded in Memphis’ art collection at Brooks.”
The new Brooks, which will be built on the Fourth Bluff at the corners of Monroe and Front Street, will stand as “an earthen-clad and glass structure built right into the bluffs of the Mississippi.”
“Each and every piece of the Brooks permanent collection will reside on one level, allowing the pieces to speak to each other,” stated Brooks Executive Director, Mark Resnick.
The overall aesthetic of the new Brooks, slated to open in 2026 during Memphis’ bicentennial year, will differ from the old Brooks in most every way. But perhaps its most notable difference lies in its accessibility to the public.
“Soon we will be better able to share the visual art of our region and the stories embedded in Memphis’ art collection at Brooks.”
Not only are the glass walls surrounding the planned courtyard meant to highlight the permanent collection and draw potential patrons’ eyes inward, the courtyard itself is intended to give the new Brooks a more accessible feel. The courtyard is one of several spaces that will be open to the public free of charge.
In addition to the courtyard, the porch, the café, the east-facing rooftop terrace, the west-facing rooftop terrace, the river window and the 175-seat box theater are all free-to-the-public spaces.
The box theater, which will be perched atop the courtyard, will contain a floor-to-ceiling, porous glass panel that will overlook the courtyard. Light-tight shudders flank the glass panel, allowing it to be covered when needed for both inside-theater and courtyard-facing viewings.
“The new Brooks will be a place for all kinds of people to come together,” states Brooks Executive Director, Mark Resnick. “It’s about connecting people with their art collection. All of our beautiful gathering spaces, free to the public, are about getting people through the front door and serving as galleries and art experiences in themselves.”
Resnick continues, “Think of the new Brooks both as Memphis’ museum and America’s front porch.”