In a March 1977 article in The New York Times, architecture critic Paul Goldberger recounts a humorous but telling anecdote about a local psychiatrist who “sent his troubled patients to relax at the Frick Collection.” He adds, “There should not be much surprised to that: Henry Clay Frick’s limestone palace of 1913-14 by Carrère & Hastings is a place of such serenity that it carries most visitors worlds away from New York.”
An afternoon spent slowly and quietly exploring the Frick feels like visiting a private home, not a corporate mega-museum. The configuration of the museum’s buildings and gardens fosters an extremely personalized experience, a long-celebrated and defining characteristic.
The Frick’s proposed monolithic expansion both runs counter to the wishes of founder Henry Clay Frick, who specified “that his New York house have ‘plenty of light and air,’” and subverts the original Trustees’ intent to preserve the “residential character” of the house. As the Frick’s own former Chief Curator, Colin Bailey, has noted, the Frick is “renowned for its small, focused exhibitions.” Critics have lauded the Frick for its “small, smart shows” contrasting starkly in feel with that of crassly expanded art complexes that can recall “something akin to an outlet mall on Black Friday,” as noted in The New York Times. This signature intimacy and scale are qualities central to the museum’s many landmark designations.