Q: Why does The Frick Collection need to renovate and expand?

The Frick has not undergone a comprehensive renovation in more than eighty years, although its collections, attendance, and public programs have grown significantly over the past decades. Many of the Frick’s critical functions — from the presentation, care, and conservation of its collections, to education programs and basic visitor services — are constrained and have been retrofitted into spaces in the former residence and adjacent library building.

The renovation will also address a number of critical infrastructure issues and will dramatically improve ADA access throughout the Frick. These changes, along with those that address critical programmatic needs, will ensure the long-term vibrancy and vitality of the institution.

Q: What does the project encompass?

Designed by Selldorf Architects in close collaboration with the Frick, the project includes the creation of new resources for the Frick’s collection, exhibitions, and public and educational programs, including new gallery spaces, the institution’s first purpose-built education center, a new auditorium, and new state-of-the-art conservation facilities. It will provide unprecedented public access to the original residence, allowing visitors for the first time to enjoy the second floor of the home. It upgrades visitor amenities and ADA-accessibility throughout the Frick. The project also encompasses important upgrades to the Frick’s infrastructure.

Q: Where are you finding space for the new facilities?

A central aspect of Selldorf Architect’s design is to recapture existing space in order to minimize new construction. We are repurposing nearly 60,000 square feet as part of this project, transforming basement and administrative spaces, as well as the service yard behind the library, into areas for education, exhibitions, and programming. This includes the creation of a formal passageway that unites the Frick’s collection and library for the first time, as well as a purpose-built auditorium that will be created mostly by transforming existing basement spaces currently being used for storage.

Q: Will the main-floor galleries change?

No. The galleries that were once the main formal rooms of the former Frick residence (among them the long West Gallery, Library gallery, Living Hall, Fragonard Room, and Dining Room) will not change aesthetically but will be enhanced behind the scenes with upgraded HVAC, electrical and lighting systems to ensure the ongoing vitality of the spaces.

Q: What is happening to the Music Room? 

Our design plan reconfigures the Music Room into a new special exhibition gallery space that will enable the Frick to present exhibitions in dialogue with its permanent collection, a critical part of our mission, without having to deinstall galleries. The plan retains and incorporates design elements of the room where possible, such as the carved wooden doorways that were introduced in 1935 when the room was added to the original house.

The Frick’s public programs, including our concert series, lectures, and symposia, will be presented in a new purpose-built auditorium better suited for both music and spoken word. Located in below-ground spaces that are being revitalized and transformed, the new 220-seat auditorium will offer improved sound quality and increased capacity to meet demand, while maintaining a level of intimacy that is integral to the Frick experience.

Q: How will the second floor be used?

This plan gives the public access to more of the former Frick residence than ever before by opening a series of rooms on the second floor. These rooms were previously used as the private living quarters of the Frick family but were converted into administration offices when the house was transformed into a museum in 1935. More intimate than the grand galleries of the main floor, these second-floor spaces retain many of their original architectural features and decorative finishes and are particularly well suited for the display of the Frick’s vast collection of smaller-scale decorative arts, sculpture, drawings and cabinet pictures, many of which are currently in storage.

Q: What will happen to the 70th Street Garden?

The Frick is not building on top of the 70th Street Garden but will be restoring it in keeping with Russell Page’s original design intent, working together with preservation architects Beyer Blinder Belle, public garden designer Lynden B. Miller, and the Frick’s longtime horticulturist Galen Lee, who was hired by the Frick more than 40 years ago at Page’s behest. Together, this team is studying and documenting the garden and developing a plan to rehabilitate and restore this treasured green space.

Q: What is the expected project timeline?

Pending the public approval process, the project is currently slated to break ground in 2020.

Q: How does the public approval process work?

The Frick is an individually designated New York City landmark and is located in the Upper East Side Historic District. The new design requires approval of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) as well as the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). We have received approval from the LPC and are appearing before the Board of Standards and Appeals. Our next hearing at BSA is scheduled for March 17, 2020.

Q: How is community feedback a part of your process?

Since 2018, when we first announced our plan designed by Selldorf Architects, we have continued to have a productive dialogue with the public, including our neighbors as well as civic and other community groups. In conjunction with the widespread distribution of our press release, some 45,000 letters and emails were sent directly to members, donors, and newsletter subscribers. Personalized follow-up letters about the public process also went out to our immediate neighbors. We’ve have held dozens of meeting with individual members of our community, including the heads of local co-op boards, as well as seven (and counting) civic organizations with an interest in architecture and preservation. We’ve also hosted a number of major presentations and open house events, inviting in members and the general public to learn more about the plan, view the model and tour the second floor. These meetings allowed Frick and Selldorf staff to share information on the building project and to be available for feedback and questions. The model is currently on view on the museum’s main gallery level, shown with a video loop of renderings. Additionally, we have continued to keep our website frickfuture.org up-to-date with the latest information on the project, which includes a comment page that we actively review. 

Q: I’ve heard that the Frick will be moving into the Met’s Breuer building during construction. Do you have an update?

We have been exploring ways to ensure that visitors will continue to enjoy the important resources of the Frick as our facilities undergo renovations. We are currently in discussions with The Metropolitan Museum of Art about the possibility of the Frick moving its programming to the Breuer building on Madison and 75th Street on a temporary basis. This would enable the public to have continued access to a selection of our collection, library resources, and education programs during our expected period of closure. Pending the necessary public approvals of our building project, we anticipate that our programming at the Breuer could begin in late 2020.

Q: I’d like to find out more about the Frick’s plan for the expansion and renovation of its facilities.

The Frick continues to update and add information to this project Web site (frickfuture.org). For those able to visit the institution in person, the architectural model is currently on view on the museum’s main gallery level, shown with project information and a video loop of renderings. The Frick also routinely hosts events where members of the public may enjoy the galleries, view the model, and discuss the project with staff and members of the design team.

For additional information, please contact Liz Daly at frickfuture@frick.org or write into the comment page. 

The Frick also includes information on the project in its e-newsletter communications, offered by free subscription through the main Web site.