We the undersigned call upon the Board of Trustees of The Frick Collection to withdraw the museum’s ill-conceived expansion proposal, which would destroy two of the City, State and National-landmarked museum’s most essential elements and irreparably damage the unique sense of intimacy that is a hallmark of the Frick experience. We also call upon our public officials to deny approval of this expansion plan.
- The character-defining intimacy of the Frick Collection must be preserved. Due to the Frick’s thoughtful architecture and integrated landscape design, an afternoon spent slowly and quietly exploring its halls feels like visiting a private residence, not a corporate mega-museum. Lauded for its “small, smart shows,” the Frick contrasts with insensitively expanded art complexes that often recall “something akin to an outlet mall on Black Friday,” as noted in The New York Times. The Frick’s human scale fosters an extremely personalized experience, which must be honored.
- The Frick Collection’s Russell Page Viewing Garden is an important work of art—and an essential component of the museum’s cultural landscape—which must not be destroyed. The Frick expansion plan calls for razing the permanent Viewing Garden, designed by renowned British landscape architect Russell Page (one of only two works in this country). Galen Lee, Horticulturist and Special Events Designer for the Frick, is quoted on the Frick’s archived virtual garden tour as saying: “… this garden is to be viewed — from the street or through the arched windows of the Reception Hall — like an Impressionst painting …” Complementing the Viewing Garden is the landmarked Reception Hall Pavilion, designed by the architectural team of John Barrington Bayley, Harry van Dyke and G. Frederick Poehler.
- Displaying art is not at the heart of the Frick’s proposed expansion. The proposal would create 40,000 square-feet of new, non-gallery facilities, to be housed in a massive 106’ tower, equal to the height of an 11-story building. It includes primarily offices, a café, a larger gift shop and entry hall, a lab, an underground auditorium, a loading dock, and “flexible programming space” that can be used as revenue-generating event space. These uses do not warrant destroying the Viewing Garden and Pavilion nor compromising the architectural integrity of the Frick ensemble.
- The Frick ensemble’s residential scale is a major component of its quadruple-landmarked status. Founder Henry Clay Frick clearly specified “that his New York house have ‘plenty of light and air,’” and the museum’s original Trustees sought to preserve the “residential character” of the house. The residential scale of Frick’s Gilded Age mansion is a central component of its City, State and National landmark designations:
— Individual Landmark (designated 1973/1974)
— NYC Upper East Side Historic District (designated 1981)
— New York State and National Registers Upper East Side Historic Districts (designated 1984)
— National Historic Landmark (designated 2008).
- Alternatives exist for achieving the Frick’s modernization goals, both within its footprint and nearby. For example, the immediately-adjacent Berry-Hill Galleries is currently available for purchase.
As stewards of a significant landmark, the leadership of the Frick has a responsibility to withdraw this destructive expansion plan, look at alternatives for modernization, and develop a sensitive proposal that will celebrate and protect the museum’s essential components into the future.