Municipal Art Society opposes “any plan that places the Page garden in its crosshairs”


NYC’s Municipal Art Society urges Frick Collection to explore alternatives to destroying landmarked Russell Page garden! The prominent urban planning organization has speaken out against any plan that places the beloved Russell Page garden in danger.

Garnering the commendation of many prominent voices in architecture, landscape architecture, art and historical preservation, New York City’s Municipal Art Society (MAS) has declared its intention to publicly oppose any expansion plan proposed by the Frick Collection that places its beloved Russell Page garden in danger.

The Frick Collection, NYC’s famously intimate Gilded Age residential gallery, is seeking to destroy its beloved, landmarked 70th Street Garden and Reception Hall Pavilion, replacing these elements with a 106-foot-tall tower. While this expansion plan would add 59,000 square feet of space, it would create only 3,600 square feet of new gallery space for the display of art (none of which would be in the new structure, which will house mainly back-of-house functions).

Founded in 1893, the Municipal Art Society (MAS) advocates for the quality of the built environment through excellence in urban planning, design, preservation and place-making through the arts. From saving Grand Central Terminal and the lights of Times Square to establishing groundbreaking land-use and preservation laws that have become national models, MAS has been at the forefront of New York’s most important campaigns to promote NYC’s economic vitality, cultural vibrancy, environmental sustainability and social diversity.

This MAS letter comes on the heels of the announcement last week that a prominent group of world-renowned artists—including Jeff Koons, Chuck Close, David Salle, Cindy Sherman, Rachel Feinstein, John Currin, Richard Prince, Frank Stella, Brice Marden, Claude Lalanne, Marc Jacobs, Sophia Coppola, Richard Phillips, Inez van Lamsweerde, Vinoodh Matadin, Jessica Craig-Martin, Lisa Yuskavage & morehave sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission urging them to deny the Frick Collection gallery’s ill-conceived proposed expansion plan.

The MAS letter, sent to Ian Wardropper, director of the Frick Collection on Thursday, May 7, 2015, reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Wardropper,

The Municipal Art Society is deeply concerned about the destruction of the Russell Page garden on 70th Street as part of the Frick Collection’s proposed expansion. The garden is considered by many to be one of Page’s greatest works and is his only design in New York City.

The uniqueness of the Frick Collection is not confined to the great works of art within its walls, but extends to its outstanding exterior and landscape architecture. Since its creation 38 years ago, the Page garden has become a defining characteristic of the Frick estate. Those who enter the Collection enjoy views of the garden from within the entrance pavilion, and the grounds are visually accessible to passersby outside, enriching the streetscape of the entire neighborhood.

The issue is not the number of gardens at the Frick, or if the same number will be retained going forward. More is at stake; the current proposal risks undermining the singular essence of the Frick Collection by erasing a masterpiece of landscape design—a landmark in its own right.

While MAS is not necessarily against an expansion, we will oppose any plan that places the Page garden in its crosshairs. We urge the Frick Collection to explore alternative solutions – most obviously, the reference library – that do not require the loss of such a beloved work of landscape architecture and treasured urban greenspace.

Margaret Newman, FAIA
Executive Director

Others voicing opposition to the Frick’s plan include prominent architects, landscape architects, preservationists, garden advocates, authors, historians, civic leaders and groups speaking out against the Frick’s plan, including: Robert A.M. Stern, architect and Dean of the Yale University School of Architecture; Peter Pennoyer, architect; the New York chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects; Madison Cox, garden designer; Andrew Scott Dolkart, architectural historian and Director of Columbia University’s masters program in Historic Preservation; Witold Rybczynski, architect and critic; the Historic Districts Council; the Garden Club of America; Victoria Newhouse, architectural historian; Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, founder of the Central Park Conservancy and the Foundation for Landscape Studies; Annette de la Renta, philanthropist; and the Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side.

Over five thousand individuals have already signed an online petition urging the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to deny the Frick’s ill-conceived proposal and consider alternatives that preserve the legacy of leading 20th Century landscape artist Russell Page, and allow the Frick to maintain its identity as a “house museum,” ideal for viewing art for generations to come.

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