The renovation in question would involve opening the Upper East Side museum’s second floor to the public and transforming the music room into a gallery for temporary exhibitions.
The most hotly contested aspect of the proposal, however, is the plan to construct a new tower on 70th Street, where the Frick’s stunning gated garden stands today. A rich, rare NYC gem, the garden was designed by landscape architect Russel Page and is his only work in Manhattan, Kimmelman points out. Frick Director Ian Wardropper argues that the renovations include the construction of a new garden, in addition to the museum’s other existing garden, to say nothing of its proximity to Central Park. Using that logic, Kimmelman retorts, “The museum has three Vermeers, too. That’s not an argument for trading one in.”
The museum’s current size, exhibition program, and garden are, after all, what draw many visitors there in the first place. Kimmelman cautions, “The city should avoid another self-inflicted would.”
Kimmelman is among the many pundits who share this opinion. Bloomberg’s Manuela Hoelterhoff, for example, criticizes the plan in her recent article, writing, “If the Frick’s trustees can look at the bloated beaux-arts plans for the addition and decide to destroy the garden, maybe we need some new trustees.”
Still, some critics support the expansion on the grounds that renovations will enhance visitor experience. In the July 14 issue of New York Magazine, Justin Davidson argues that access to the second floor of the museum would be an exciting development, though he urges the Landmarks Preservation Commission to hold out for a more careful proposal from the Frick. And in a New Yorker piece titled “Expanding the Frick: Let the Hard Hats Come,” Peter Schjeldahl admits he’s “O.K. with the changes.” Astutely, he points out that Page’s garden has never been open to the public, while a museum extension would chiefly be created for the public’s enjoyment.
This begs the question—Where the Frick is concerned, does more gallery space trump more green space?
For more information, visit The New York Times.