Published May 12, 2015.
The Russell Page Garden at the Frick Collection © Navid Baraty
The future of the Frick Collection’s Russell Page-designed garden remains unknown and the rumored revisions to the museum expansion plan first floated by Frick officials a year ago continues to be shrouded in mystery. The expansion was initially slated to be formally reviewed by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in January 2015, but to date nothing public has happened. Meanwhile, the chorus of opposition continues to grow.
The advocacy group Unite to Save the Frick, which TCLF provided extensive information about the importance of the Page-designed garden, has rallied condemnation of the early plans on numerous fronts, most recently in the form of a letter from dozens of prominent artists including Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, and others to Frick director Ian Wardropper opposing the plan. Simultaneously, the authoritative and widely respected Municipal Art Society (MAS) also sent a letter to Wardropper that declared: “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.” No wonder influential art blogger Paddy Johnson headlined a recent post: “Everyone Hates the Frick’s Expansion Plans.”
The most stirring opposition was offered by Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for the New York Times, in his opening remarks at a panel presentation convened to honor the 50th anniversary of New York City’s Landmarks Law, which created the preservation commission and has led to the protection of scores of sites throughout the city. Kimmelman (whose remarks start at 29:18 in this video) noted that it would be a “lasting shame” if the Frick expansion is poorly handled and that outside of the Frick there is “next to zero support” for the current expansion plans. Kimmelman went on to urge the Preservation Commission members, whose Chairman and Commissioner, Meenakshi Srinivasan, was present, to do the right thing and “prevent a historic mistake.”
Kimmelman also noted that, “we are only slowly coming to acknowledge that landscape design deserves the same respect as architecture.” Regardless of the outcome, the fact that the garden – a work of landscape architecture – has become the central issue in this debate and a focal point for diverse group of individuals and organizations is extraordinary.
TCLF will continue to advocate for the Page garden and keep you apprised of developments surrounding the proposed expansion plans. We also urge you to contact the Mayor and Ms. Srinivasan and ask them to prevent the Page garden’s demolition:
Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York, NY 10007
Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chairman
Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007
Please cc Charles A. Birnbaum, president & CEO, The Cultural Landscape Foundation and send copies to firstname.lastname@example.org