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“Isn’t There a Better Way?” My WSJ Piece on the Corcoran Gallery Court Case

Charles Patrizia (holding white file box), waiting to go through metal detectors at D.C. Superior Court Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Corcoran’s lead lawyer Charles Patrizia (holding white file box), waiting to go through metal detectors at D.C. Superior Court
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

I spent two days last week in Judge Robert Okun‘s Courtroom 317 at D.C. Superior Court, hearing arguments and testimony by the Corcoran Gallery’s attorneys and the three witnesses it called to help make its unconvincing case for ending the 145-year-old institution’s function as a museum, scattering its collection to various nonprofit recipients (with the lion’s share going to the National Gallery of Art) and transferring its the Corcoran’s real estate, most of its financial assets and its college to George Washington University.

Having attended the hearings 11 years ago for the Barnes Foundation’s move to Philadelphia, I had an eerie sense of “cy près” déjà vu.

In my piece, Isn’t There a Better Way? A hearing to decide the fate of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, for tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal “Leisure & Arts” page (online now), I analyze the flaws in the cases presented by both sides—the Corcoran’s trustees and those who oppose their plan—and note that “a crucial protagonist was missing from from the petitioners’ case.”

At the end, I propose a roadmap for reviving ­Corcoran and keeping its collection ­intact.

As luck would have it, this…

Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Photo by Lee Rosenbaum


…is just a stone’s throw from this:

Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

So I got to relieve the courtroom tension by enjoying the National Gallery’s Degas/Cassatt exhibition and I revisited the two permanent-collection paintings that are my touchstones whenever I visit that museum. For now, I’ll let you guess what they are. (I’ll tweet them later @CultureGrrl.)

Although I was not in the courtroom when philanthropist Wayne Reynolds and University of Maryland President Wallace Loh renewed their proposals for rescuing the Corcoran (as reported here and here by the Washington Post‘s David Montgomery), I did get a copy of the letter sent by Loh to the D.C. Attorney General, in which he said he was “prepared to submit a proposal that takes into account developments since we were last in active discussions with the Corcoran.”

You can read Loh’s full letter here.

The five witnesses expected to be called this week by those who oppose the Corcoran/GWU/NGA deal include (finally!) someone who actually knows about art—Michael Botwinick, former director of the Corcoran and current director of the Hudson River Museum.

Judge Okun said he would hear closing arguments the day after testimony concludes (possibly Wednesday or Thursday). After that, we await his decision.

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