Instead of roaming the rooms and courtyard of a fussy Gilded Age mansion, starting next week fans of The Frick Collection will have to navigate the dark Brutalist galleries of a different museum building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan if they want to see the Veroneses and Vermeers.
On March 18, the Frick will open its doors in the former Madison Avenue home of the Met Breuer (2016–2020) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1966–2014). The change of venue isn’t permanent, though. The institution is moving its galleries five blocks north while it renovates and expands its palatial headquarters on East 70th Street as part of a long-planned revamp that will enlarge the building. (Selldorf Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle are leading the renovation and expansion.)
The stacked concrete Madison Avenue structure, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1966, is obviously a very different experience than the Beaux Arts Frick Mansion, which was designed by Thomas Hastings as a home for Henry Clay Frick, the industrialist and art enthusiast for whom the collection is named. The Frick’s curators are trying their best to harmonize their collection, which ranges from Old Masters to the nineteenth century, within a museum designed to display modern and contemporary art.
In lieu of recreating the Frick Mansion, curators at Frick Madison are embracing the Breuer building’s cocooned interiors by grouping works loosely by region, era, and medium. A press release that accompanies the Frick Madison opening announcement noted that the Frick has a significant collection of sculpture and decorative art, but that (paraphrasing liberally here) the impossibly decedent captain-of-industry interiors sometimes make the sculptures, clocks, and porcelain look dinky and drab, especially when they’re displayed next to paintings. That shouldn’t be an issue at the Breuer building, however. The grey walls will really make those overlooked items pop. A video that accompanied the press release used words like “minimal” and “spartan” to convey the atmosphere of the three floors that will be used, although these descriptions shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s spent time in the building in its prior incarnations.
“The minimalism of Marcel Breuer’s mid-century architecture provides a unique backdrop for our Old Masters,” Frick director Ian Wardropper said in prepared statement. “[The] result is a not-to-be-missed experience, one that our public is sure to find engaging and thought-provoking.”
You can confirm or refute Wardropper’s assertion for yourself beginning Thursday, March 18, and running, as of now, until 2023, when the Frick moves back to East 70th Street.
More information on hours and tickets can be found here.