The Frick Collection’s temporary home in Madison Avenue’s Breuer building is opening next month
A little over two years ago, the Frick Collection announced it would take over Madison Avenue’s famous Breuer building from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Up until 2016, the brutalist landmark was home to the Whitney Museum of American Art, but when the Whitney moved to its new High Line building, the Met took it over as a contemporary wing. The new move allows the Met to ease the burden of some of its debt while providing a temporary home for the Frick while its permanent home–a Gilded Age mansion on Fifth Avenue-undergoes a renovation. The Frick Madison will open at 25-percent capacity on March 18.
The Marcel Breuer-designed building at Madison Avenue and East 75th Street opened in 1966 as a larger home for the Whitney Museum of American Art. At the time, it was a sharp contrast to the stately mansions and brownstones of the area, and New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable famously referred to it as “the most disliked building” in the city. But over the years, it’s grown to be a beloved landmark, unique for its granite facade with asymmetrical windows and open-grid ceilings.
When the Whitney moved into its new Renzo Piano-designed building in 2015, the Met saw an opportunity to open a satellite location in the nearby building to exhibit modern and contemporary art. However, the institution’s precarious financial situation made this a questionable move. The decision in 2018 to sign the space over to the Frick allowed the Met “to free itself of the last three years of an eight-year lease and an $18 million annual expense and enable it to put funds toward improving the modern and contemporary galleries at its Fifth Avenue flagship,” as we previously explained. With the Frick subletting, the Met will reportedly save about $45 million, even more important now since the Met was hit hard by the pandemic.
As for the Frick, the move allows the museum to continue operating while its permanent home undergoes a renovation that’s not expected to be complete until 2023. The renovation and expansion plan was designed by architect Annabelle Selldorf. Despite concerns from preservationists, it was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2018. The $160 million project includes 60,000 square feet of repurposed space and 27,000 square feet of new construction and will expand the existing 1914 building’s second level, add two set-back stories above the music room and an addition behind the Frick Art Reference Library, and restore the original gated Russell Page Garden. The John Russell Pope-designed music room will be transformed into a special exhibitions gallery, the main point of contention for those opposed to the plan. However, the institution maintains that having the space to exhibit more of its collection is a priority.
When the Frick Madison opens on March 18th, it will operate at 25-percent capacity Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Timed entry tickets will need to be purchased in advance, with online sales beginning February 19.
According to a press release:
In a departure from the institution’s customary domestic presentation style, Frick Madison offers the public the opportunity to experience highlights from the collection organized chronologically and by region. Presented over three floors, the Frick Madison installation features treasured paintings and sculptures by Bellini, Clodion, Gainsborough, Goya, Holbein, Houdon, Ingres, Rembrandt, Titian, Turner, Velázquez, Verrocchio, Vermeer, Whistler, and many others, alongside impressive holdings in the decorative arts. Rarely displayed works include important seventeenth-century Mughal carpets and long-stored canvases from the famed series The Progress of Love by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, to be shown together in its entirety for the first time in the Frick’s history.