The Corcoran Gallery of Art announced yesterday afternoon that after considering a controversial move from its historic building in Washington D.C., it has decided to remain there.
At their Dec. 5 meeting, according to a statement from the museum, “the Trustees resolved that they will now focus only on approaches that keep the museum in the building.”
The controversy began in June, when the nearly 150-year-old Corcoran Gallery of Art, which also houses the Corcoran College of Art & Design, announced that it would consider selling its 1897 Beaux-Arts Flagg building and moving to a new location, possibly in suburban Alexandria, Va. or other sites in D.C. or Maryland. A move to the suburbs would have been similar to the relocation of the Barnes Collection, which controversially moved from Philadelphia’s suburbs into the city center this year.
The museum and school’s charter provides for “an institution in Washington City,” according to representatives of Save the Corcoran, a group that opposed the move.
“We applaud Corcoran leaders for listening to the D.C. arts community’s grave concerns about the proposed sale of the building and relocation of the museum,” said Save the Corcoran in a statement, “and we commend them for honoring their commitment to keeping all options on the table with regard to finding sustainable solutions.”
In its June announcement, the museum argued that its current home allows it to display only three percent of its holdings at any one time, and that well in excess of $100 million is needed to renovate the facility.
The plot thickened in October, when Andrew Tulumello, of D.C. law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher (which is representing Save the Corcoran pro bono), delivered to the Corcoran’s board a letter accusing the museum of mismanagement. The missive points out that charitable giving had plunged even before the recession hit in 2008; it indicates that potential donors have been turned away for lack of a strategic plan; and it points out that board members who were investigating a possible move to Alexandria are involved with the political action committee “Securing Alexandria’s Future.”
Tulumello’s letter further pointed out that most museums can display only a tiny percentage of their collections, and that the cost estimates the management put forth were wildly inflated.