Marcel Breuer’s inverted ziggurat on the Upper East Side, currently home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s contemporary collection, won’t be reopening alongside its larger Manhattan counterpart in August. Instead, the Frick Collection will take over the Met Breuer space while the expansion of its East 70th street home is underway.
The Frick Collection’s move to Madison Avenue and East 75th Street had been planned since 2018, making it the third museum to occupy the space in six years. (Breuer originally designed the building for the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1966, where it remained until 2014.) With Selldorf Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle’s plan to expand the Frick still moving ahead as planned, the institution will need a temporary home to store and display its expansive collection in the meantime. In exchange, the Met will be able to get out of the last three years of its lease on the building, which some claim had forced the museum to divert financial resources from its Fifth Avenue base.
As first reported by Artnet, the Met has chosen to use the downtime caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic to begin the transition, confirming that they won’t be reopening the Breuer satellite and will instead be handing it over to the Frick. Per Artnet, the Met Breuer’s early closure also means that the Gerhard Richter: Painting After All show, a retrospective of America painter Gerhard Richter, was only able to run for nine days before closing on March 12 to stymy the spread of coronavirus.
In the Met Breuer’s short life (it reopened to the public in March 2016 after the space was refreshed by Beyer Blinder Belle, including the unblocking of its windows), the institution hosted a number of architecture- and design-influenced shows, including the Siah Armajani retrospective Follow This Line and a litany of contemporary sculpture exhibitions. Reviews were oftentimes mixed and the small museum was reportedly a money loser; breaking their lease early will save the Met an estimated $17 million a year in rent. It’s unclear who will take over the granite-clad building after the Frick decamps back to its mansion home in 2023.