May 6, 2015
Dear Mayor de Blasio and Chair Srinivasan:
The residential scale of the Frick Collection exerts a special power over those who walk its halls. To have visitors experience the feeling of living with art was the intention of founder Henry Clay Frick as he envisioned his personal residence being opened to the public. Up until now, the Frick’s fidelity to its founder’s vision of a “house museum” has been laudable. Those of us in the art world who cherish the unique and tranquil ambiance offered by the Frick are urging the Frick to withdraw its proposed plan and consider alternative methods of expansion that would preserve the character essential to its appeal.
As professionals working in the art world (sculptors, painters, critics, journalists, dealers, gallerists, financiers, and more), we strongly believe that the Frick’s effectiveness as a display space lies in its intimacy. Viewing highlights of the collection—whether the photorealism of Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing Girl or the diffused softness of Renoir’s La Promenade—we are transported by the gallery’s serene environment, and encouraged to reflect on what it means to let art inhabit one’s daily life. It’s personal at the Frick, and that is a rare achievement.
The ensemble the Frick wishes to raze, composed of the Reception Hall Pavilion and the Russell Page-designed Viewing Garden on East 70th Street, is a masterstroke of the evolving museum’s design, positioning the mansion in counterpoint to the Manhattan street grid, and optimizing the “house museum” experience. Replacing the hall and garden with an institutional 106-foot tower will indeed destroy the famed Frick experience for artists and art lovers around the world.
The Frick is revered for its wise curatorial and architectural decisions, and we hope that your guidance will ensure that it does not break with this tradition. Please deny the Frick’s current expansion proposal and urge its leadership to consider the many worthy and reasonable alternatives for modernizing this one-of-a-kind gallery so beloved in the international art community.