1. What would The Frick Collection look like in a Brutalist Building?


The Met Breuer, soon to be the temporary home of the Frick Collection

We’re about to find out. While its mansion is being renovated, The Frick Collection will move uptown for a two-year sabbatical in the Met Breuer, formerly the Whitney Museum. And how will the paintings do on the Breuer’s austere white walls?

Putting a resolutely cheerful face on the coming trauma, Frick Collection director Ian Wardropper says, optimistically, that the move may be a good time for experimentation and trying new things. “The experience of viewing our collections at the Frick is informed by the context of the residence itself. Henry Clay Frick chose to live with the works from his collection, and we continue to celebrate this experience today in how we present our exhibitions. At the Breuer building, we will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these works in a very different context. The plan is not yet formalized, but the intent is to avoid recreating ourselves a few blocks away, and instead to see The Frick reframed in this very different way, architecturally and aesthetically.  I’m intrigued and excited, and we feel that from the public when they ask us about it!  The response has been tremendous.”

What should it be called? The Britney? or maybe the Fritney? the Freuer? or the Fret? In a recent talk Wardropper seemed to favor the Britney. The very traditional Frick is almost revolutionary today in its staid presentation and in fact was criticized on its 1935 opening by giants like literary and architectural critic Lewis Mumford for retaining Henry Clay Frick’s decorative objects. Calling the decorative objects bric-a-brac, Mumford disdained the Frick setting, which most of us love, as a “nuisance,” arguing that complex paintings are best shown on “the bare walls of a modern building.” He is about to get his wish.

The Frick Collection is located at One East 70th Street New York NY 10021. Closed Mondays; Tues-Sat 10 am to 6 pm; Sun 11 am to 5 pm

Julia Vitullo-Martin is a senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association. Contact her at @JuliaManhattan.

Stop by the Frick Collection after our upcoming tour of the Secrets of Central Park:

Secrets of Central Park Walking Tour

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One Response
  1. Simon DelMonte Reply

    Wouldn’t the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by a group of conspirators who also tried to kill Seward and Johnson count as an act of terrorism? The word has almost lost all meaning, but surely any comparison between the attempt to kill Frick and the murder of Lincoln would place the two horrific events on the same level of combining politics and violence.

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