More than five years after announcing its renovation plans, the Frick Collection is 83 percent of the way there. The Manhattan-based museum is now entering the public phase of the expansion’s capital campaign after raising $242 million of its $290 million goal.
While the Frick has previously undergone minor expansions, like the addition of a new gallery in 2011, this project marks the first comprehensive upgrade of the museum since it opened to the public in 1935. Located in the Fifth Avenue residence of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, who bequeathed his home and art collection to open the institution, its holdings have doubled in size over the past 88 years.
Approximately $160 million will be invested in new construction and capital improvements, while $35 million is earmarked to upgrade the infrastructure, energy efficiency and long-term sustainability of the Frick’s Gilded Age home. The finished project will contain 196,000 square feet, a 10 percent increase in size.
An additional portion of funds is supporting the temporary relocation of the Frick’s holdings and programming to the Frick Madison, located in the iconic Breuer building. The Brutalist property was recently acquired by Sotheby’s, which will take over the building in September of next year.
Who are the donors behind the Frick’s expansion?
The Frick’s capital campaign is anchored by a lead gift of $35 million from Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone (BX) and a long-time trustee of the museum who helped spearhead the campaign’s silent phase in 2019. The institution’s new 220-seat auditorium, complete with state-of-the-art acoustics, will be named after the arts patron in recognition of his gift. Other donors include Bradford Evans, another museum trustee, and Elizabeth Eveillard, chair of the Frick’s board.
An additional $6.4 million has been allocated by the City of New York from the New York City Council and Office of the Manhattan Borough President, while $37 million was generated by the Frick’s endowment earnings.
Is $290 million a lot?
While $290 million might seem a considerable sum, the cost and scale of the Frick’s renovation plans pale in comparison to other museum upheavals across the city. The Museum of Modern Art, which opened 40,000 square feet of exhibition space and introduced a new wing and collection rehang in 2019, raised more than $400 million for the project over four years. Meanwhile, the Richard Gilder Center for Science at the American Museum of Natural History, which opened earlier this year as a 230,000-square-foot addition, drew from $465 million in funds. And the Metropolitan Museum of Art is expecting its rebuilding of a wing for modern and contemporary artwork, due to open in 2029, to cost half a billion dollars.
The Frick’s restoration and enhancement project, designed by Selldorf Architects with Beyer Blinder Belle serving as executive architect, will see its original building offer a 30 percent increase in gallery space for permanent collection displays and exhibitions. In addition to an expanded reception hall and the opening of its first public cafe, the project will consist of infrastructure updates, replaced skylights, and accessibility improvements made to its ramps, elevators and restrooms.
Meanwhile, conservation facilities will be introduced for both the museum’s collection of sculptures and decorative arts and the holdings of the Frick Reference Library, which is located adjacent to the museum. The Frick’s capital campaign will continue throughout the reopening of the institution’s Fifth Avenue home, scheduled for late 2024.
The fundraising initiative “is critical to ensuring that the Frick’s unparalleled holdings and historic buildings can be enjoyed and experienced by audiences for years to come,” said Ian Wardropper, the Frick’s director, in a statement. “We look forward to the critical next phase of our campaign, which will help us reach our final fundraising goal.”