While many museums are experimenting with quirky new ways of organizing (or disorganizing) their permanent-collection displays, the Frick Collection, currently closed, is going in the opposite direction: It will use its planned temporary occupation of the Whitney Museum-owned Breuer building (the eventual fate of which is still undetermined) as an opportunity to unveil a more conventionally coherent presentation of its holdings than was seen in its flagship building.
The relocated, rethought display, to open in early 2021, will be “organized by time period, geographic region, and media,” in the words of the Frick’s announcement. The Frick’s “small but significant group of Spanish paintings, by artists from El Greco to Goya, will be shown together for the first time,” according to last October’s description of the installation plans. When it returns to homebase, the Frick intends to revert to its more eclectic display.
I provided more details here about the Frick’s ambitious capital project (designed by Annabelle Selldorf) to upgrade and expand its building on East 70th Street:
In contrast to the planned conventional mode of display at the Marcel Breuer-designed Brutalist building (to be dubbed, “the Frick Madison” for the occasion), the installation at the Frick Collection’s 1914 Beaux Arts building (designed as Henry Clay Frick‘s residence by Carrère and Hastings, and later repurposed as a museum by John Russell Pope) had reflected the idiosyncratic “spirit in which works were displayed by the Frick family,” as described by Heidi Rosenau, the museum’s spokesperson, in response to my recent queries about Frick installations, past and future.
The temporary Frick Madison opportunity will undoubtedly inspire fresh insights on our collection, but the plan in the Breuer building will not become our overarching mode of display when we return to 70th Street: Our existing galleries will maintain the same Frick experience and character as before, with the same approach in display that is so associated with the Frick….
We’ve also been known to revert an installation back to one more characteristic of Frick-family times. For example, about a decade ago, the presentation in the Dining Room was returned to a more uniform scheme of full-length Gainsborough portraits, bringing together some that had been shown in other rooms for several decades.
The former private residence opened to the public, after expansion and renovation, on Dec. 16, 1935. Henry Clay Frick, whose collection it housed, died in 1919.
Next year, when it begins its stint in the Breuer building, the Frick plans to offer not only public gallery access to its collections, but also reading-room access to the indispensable Frick Art Reference Library’s holdings.
What’s more, rarely displayed works will be placed on public view, including long-stored paintings from Jean-Honoré Fragonard‘s famed Progress of Love series, to be shown together in its entirety [all 14 panels] for the first time in the Frick’s history:
Two important 17th-century Mughal carpets (one of which is described by the Frick as “an especially rare and remarkable example”) will be “hung on the walls like paintings—a display in keeping with their status as works of art of the highest quality”:
The 1966 Breuer building, already restored by Beyer Blinder Belle for occupation in 2016 by the Metropolitan Museum (which then dubbed it, “the Met Breuer”), is “fairly turnkey,” Rosenau told me. As for the Frick’s timetable for returning to its spiffed-up 70th-Street digs, she was vague: “Groundbreaking is planned for early 2021, with two years of work of there, followed by time thereafter for reinstallation before we reopen.”
As CultureGrrl readers may remember from my video tour with the Frick’s director, Ian Wardropper, its upstairs rooms, previously closed to the public, will be repurposed as display space.
But will we get to hear an organ fanfare to herald that grand occasion?
Meanwhile, if you crave an intoxicating connection with the Frick’s masterpieces and curators (and if you have an eclectically stocked liquor cabinet), you can partake in its popular Friday-night Cocktails with a Curator series (complete with coordinated mixed-drink recipes), the second of which, on Apr. 17, I had called favorable attention to in these tweets:
A NOTE TO MY READERS: If you appreciate my coverage and are feeling generous during this subdued holiday season, please consider ringing out the old year (Farewell 2020!) and supporting CultureGrrl‘s continued provocations (and vaccinations) in the New Year of 2021 (marking both my 15th anniversary as a blogger and my 50th as a wife) by clicking the “Donate” button in the righthand column.
Xavier Salomon concludes his @FrickCollection cocktail talk by gracefully linking Rembrandt’s mysterious “Polish Rider” to our current malaise, as “a symbol of this moment of history where we’re stuck in uncertainty & doubt.” You can replay it here: https://t.co/COpNTLdd1w pic.twitter.com/1DVn3rH1La— Lee Rosenbaum (@CultureGrrl) April 17, 2020
Contributors of at least $15 (increased from $10) or monthly contributors of $5 or more are added to my email blast for immediate notification of my new posts.