Frick Succumbs to Supersizing

October 23, 2014

After spending several years fighting the destruction of a Carrere and Hastings masterpiece, The New York Public Library, I didn’t expect to have another Goliath spring up in 2014. But it happened. It is sad that one of New York’s greatest museums joined MOMA in deciding to supersize itself. Wealthy board members want to build and museum directors are blithely constructing to satisfy their hubris and egotism.

I never thought it would happen at the Frick, my favorite New York museum. It is the perfect place to view paintings in intimate settings. It needs nothing in the way of improvement.

Davis Brody Bond has designed a hulking addition to the museum that Ian Wardropper, its director, says is “just big enough” to accommodate needed auditorium, office and gallery space. What he doesn’t say is that the museum will destroy two wonderful spaces in order to build the addition, and that one of them was designed by England’s Russell Page, one of the 20th century’s greatest landscape architects. Charles Birnbaum has written a beautiful piece in the Huffington Post that argues for the garden’s preservation.

The trend toward building mega-museum additions in New York seemed to be subsiding in the wake of widespread criticism that such expansions were merely trying to out-Guggenheim the Guggenheim. Moreover, the Frick board was circumspect, conservative, and not inclined to follow trends in the culture wars; that is, until recently.

The Frick does not need a large addition. Critics have shown that any additional admin space could be accommodated by purchasing adjacent buildings, as the museum has done in the past, and converting them to offices and program spaces. So, I’ve joined the campaign to fight another ploy by the new oligarchy to control cultural institutions and gobble up real estate in America’s art capital. You should too.

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