Selected Commentary & Endorsements

Civic Organizations and Professional Associations

We would like to thank the board and staff at the Frick for listening to the concerns generated from the earlier expansion proposal, for starting over, and for conducting extensive community outreach. We thank Selldorf Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle for a thorough and comprehensive presentation. The result is a proposed intervention which is appropriate for this landmark and meets the institution’s goals. Since Carrere and Hastings designed the original mansion in 1914, there have been a series of careful additions and alterations that responded to the needs of several generations. We believe that this thoughtful proposal continues in that tradition. Our Committee found that the new limestone-clad additions are appropriate in their height, massing, and materials. They draw inspiration from the historic buildings in a respectful manner. The rooftop addition to the Reception Hall will rise gracefully from the building, in the manner of a conservatory. The connecting link is modest, but well-considered. There will be no loss of historic fabric, and while some façade elements of the Library Building will be less visible, they will not be removed or altered by this project.

The New York Landmarks Conservancy

We find the proposed design for expansion and new construction to be an elegant solution to the museum’s programmatic needs. Many New Yorkers treasure this museum. We recognize it as a jewel, and are very wary of any change that might compromise the vistor experience. The proposed design promises to enhance the current functions of the Frick and does not seek to introduce new programmatic elements. We especially note how the addition will enhance the library, providing space both for its renowned holdings and new library functions. The design promises to significantly improve the experience of library users.

The City Club of New York

Civitas is pleased with the amount of effort and the technical revisions that the Frick Museum has taken into consideration in developing their current expansion plans. We recognize the need for the museum to expand their collection, office, education, library, and auditorium spaces. This is made possible by moving office and other ancillary uses into the proposed expansion. Additionally, the expanded opportunities for programming and research through the new auditorium and expanded library are a benefit to school kids and our neighbors. We believe the enhanced access to the historic Frick Mansion may be the most exciting part of the entire project.


HDC finds the present scheme for the expansion of The Frick Collection’s campus to be, on the whole, much more sympathetic than previous iterations of the plan. In particular, we laud the retention of the beloved garden by Russell Page on East 70th Street, which is proposed to be recreated insitu. We also applaud the project team’s robust community outreach efforts and thank them for presenting the plans to our committee, as well making their materials available to us at an early date.

Historic Districts Council

The Garden Conservancy is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and sharing outstanding American gardens for the education and inspiration of the public. We endorse the Frick Collection’s new plans in concept, based on our understanding that they are committed to the preservation of the garden and provided that the garden is restored according to Russell Page’s original design.

The Garden Conservancy

Full letter (PDF)

The expansion to the Frick Collection by Selldorf Architects would allow the public to gain access to the beautifully designed upstairs rooms in the original structure of the Frick House. We find it important to note how well the proposal maintains the Beaux-Arts exterior by Carrère and Hastings. Furthermore, the massing of the expansion does not overshadow the grandiosity of the original design, nor does it appear out of place with the historic apartment buildings and townhomes nearby. The expansion manages to give the public greater access to the historic interiors without compromising the landmarked exterior.

AIA, NYC Chapter

Frick Family

It gives me great pleasure to write my appreciation of the future plans for the Frick Collection. As a great granddaughter of the founder, Henry Clay Frick, and as a trustee of the board for thirty years, and for five years its chair, I and many others have made it our concern as to how the Frick Collection can continue to engage its growing audience in an aging infrastructure. One trustee has likened great grandfather’s glorious house to a Faberge egg. The illusion of serenity, of the intimacy of a home, albeit a grand one, must be maintained. We all have the utmost confidence that Annabelle Selldorf, our architect of choice, has the understanding and the vision to protect that Faberge egg, whilst making the Collection more welcoming and more mindful of the needs of visitors and staff. We are all excited to watch the Frick Collection prepare for the future.

Helen Clay Chace, President Emerita, Board of Trustees, and great-granddaughter of Henry Clay Frick

I am convinced of the critical need for the Collection to expand in order to relieve overburdened facilities and to meet its future needs. My great aunt, Helen Clay Frick, characteristically resisted change. However, I believe she would be delighted at the prospect of more fully integrating the Collection with her beloved Frick Art Reference Library. Having been launched in the bowling alley in the inner recesses of 1 East 70th Street, the Frick Art Reference Library’s most unusual mission in the world would be greatly advanced by the new plan.

 This plan also calls for enhancement of the Collection’s exhibition space, which would be accomplished, in part, by the opening of the mansion’s second floor to the public, a major plus for visitors of the house museum. As a result of the proposed changes, the Collection and Library staff will finally have adequate space to carry out their work and visitors will benefit from critically needed amenities, such as enlarged restroom facilities, access for people with disabilities, and room for educational programs. Preservation and celebration of the Collection’s open space, its outside gardens and interior Garden Court, are central to the proposed project.

Finally, I have been greatly encouraged by the evolution of the present architectural plan since its inception. The trend has been toward greater harmony with and sensitivity to a magnificent past.

Peter P. Blanchard III, member of The Frick Collection Board of Trustees and great-grandson of Henry Clay Frick

Colleagues at Cultural Institutions

In his will Henry Clay Frick stipulated that his house and collection were to become a museum open to the public. It was his wish that it be a vital institution of the highest quality going forward. Recognizing that he could not foresee future needs and opportunities for the museum, he named a Board of Trustees in which he placed the responsibility for maintaining the standards of quality that he had established and for making decisions concerning the future development of the buildings, collections, and programs. Since 1919, The Frick Collection has undergone constant growth and evolution while adhering to the example set by its founder. The plan for expansion of the museum and library is in keeping with that vision. Implementing this plan will preserve and enhance the visitor’s experience of the collection, special exhibitions, and educational programs as well as establish closer ties to the Frick Art Reference Library and its rich and important resources for the study of art history and the history of collecting.

Anne L. Poulet, Director Emerita, The Frick Collection

I pen these words precisely because I cherish the unique, intimate experience of art that The Frick Collection offers, and am satisfied that this experience will not be compromised in any way by the proposed expansion—on the contrary. The Frick was never meant to be a museum of itself, nor has it ever been, and so it is that small, focused exhibitions have become a new and valued trademark. This will not change. What could is that the Frick may be able to put an end to the current, unfortunate practice of pictures from the collection being withdrawn to accommodate loan exhibitions. In addition to improved art handling―thus art safety and conservation―I wish to point out that one justification for this and past additions, often overlooked, is that the Frick’s collection has more than doubled since Henry Clay Frick’s death, and has continued to grow since the museum opened in 1935. It would be wonderful if all the improvements needed by The Frick Collection could be achieved with the waving of a magic wand. Given that they can’t, a physical expansion is required, and the advantages I see in doing so far outweigh the disadvantages.

Philippe de Montebello, Director Emeritus, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Chairman, Hispanic Society Museum & Library

I express my strong support of The Frick Collection’s proposal to upgrade and expand its museum and library. Having reviewed the spectacular design proposed by Selldorf Architects, I am confident that this project will vastly enhance the Frick’s ability to offer the types of groundbreaking exhibitions, accessible public programs and innovative educational tools for which the institution has become known. Given the current facility’s architectural significance to the Upper East Side and, indeed, New York City as a whole, I am inspired by this design’s ability to enrich the visitor experience while preserving the legacy and vision of the brilliant Russell Page.

Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator, The Studio Museum of Harlem

Beloved institutions like the Frick, at critical points in their history, face the need to add new spaces in order to preserve their historic character and vitality. Without the facilities to properly conserve the collections or provide the public with basic amenities, the museum cannot thrive. Having led the creation of a successful addition to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, I know how difficult calibrating the right architectural solution can be. No one wants to alter the character of these museums by changing what we love about them.

The solution the Frick is proposing by Selldorf is elegant, and understated. One must look twice to see what has been added. It appears to have always been there. Yet this scheme provides just what is required by making careful additions to existing structures and brilliantly repurposing current spaces both in the main house and underground.

Anne Hawley, Director Emerita, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

The Frick Collection and the Neue Galerie New York have always had much in common. Both are small museums housed in exquisite Carrère & Hastings-designed buildings, and are committed to presenting art in a serene and welcoming environment. In fact, we at the Neue Galerie emulated the approach taken by the Frick in creating our own exhibition displays. I share a deep admiration for the Frick with thousands of my fellow New Yorkers, as well as with visitors from around the world.  

The new proposal put forward by Selldorf Architects to expand the Frick Collection is a thoughtful, generous vision that will be of immeasurable benefit to the museum in the years to come. Besides creating a more logical, spacious layout for galleries and offices, the design maintains the extraordinary garden spaces that are so integral to the identity of this great institution. I am pleased to offer my unequivocal support for this important project.

Renée Price, Director, Neue Galerie New York

The Frick Collection and The Clark Art Institute are similar in many ways—both as centers of scholarship and as custodians of our founders’ collections and legacies. As we reconceived our campus, we had the good fortune to work closely with Selldorf Architects on the renovation of our original neo-classical Museum Building which opened in 1955. The Clark’s campus project included the sensitive renovation of existing galleries with the creation of new exhibition spaces which maintained the sensibility of the original galleries. Selldorf’s design incorporated intuitive and elegant connections between the buildings, complementing the Clark Center designed by Tadao Ando. The resulting effect is an enhanced visitor experience with improvements integrated seamlessly into our historic buildings. As the Frick begins this important project working with Selldorf Architects, I know their team will develop a plan that complements the Frick experience, one that everyone who has visited The Frick Collection cherishes.

Michael Conforti, former Director, The Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA

Historically significant cultural institutions like Longwood Gardens and The Frick Collection face a daunting challenge of balancing the need to support growth to fulfill our community mandate while honoring our precious historical legacy that serves as the fundamental guiding light for all that we embark upon today and tomorrow. The Frick Collection has duly recognized the importance of the Russell Page designed garden in its current expansion plans that is now before the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. I have even further confidence in The Frick Collection’s plans for the Russell Page designed garden because the project is under the executive design leadership of the foremost preservation architectural firm in the world, Beyer Blinder Belle.

Paul B. Redman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Longwood Gardens

I enthusiastically support of The Frick Collection’s plan to upgrade and expand the museum and library. I am a frequent visitor to the Frick and visit the Frick Library many times a week. As a curator and art historian, I find the ingenious creation of special exhibition galleries to be essential. I applaud the elegance and practicality of the Selldorf proposal. As a museum professional, I know that the Frick’s conservation areas and climate control urgently need to be upgraded for the institution to fulfill its mission.

Vivian E. Barnett

The new conservation facilities for The Frick Collection will fundamentally transform the way in which the staff is able to study and care for the collections. The enlarged and meticulously designed spaces will at last reflect the quality of both the Frick’s permanent collection and the conservation professionals who care for it. Large objects will now be able to be accommodated within the lab, as has not before been the case, and improved ventilation and climate control will allow for treatments not currently possible and ensure they are safe for both the artworks and the conservators. The space also will include a dedicated area for study and technical examination so that these functions do not conflict with treatment activities. These improvements-made possible by a proposed addition that calls for the Frick’s first purpose-built conservation spaces-are critical and will facilitate and encourage scholarly study, collaboration with outside specialists, and training for conservation fellows. I applaud the new plan and the important effort it represents.

Henry Lie, Former Director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums

Other Voices

The design is at once highly intelligent in solving many of the circulation issues and in the expansion of the square footage of the facility without a major expansion of the footprint of the building. Learning from legitimate criticisms of an earlier project, Selldorf has worked with Lynden Miller to restore the much-admired Russell Page garden as an integral part of the concept.
The Frick campus is now a collection of additions and changes over the decades that have created a unique atmosphere of viewing art in what appears to be a wealthy residence. Selldorf expands that tradition, with a building that is at once hers and yet sets back discretely from the historical mansion. Most importantly the project expands the public visit to the second floor of the house, allowing visitors to ascend the majestic staircase which has taunted us for years as an architectural hallmark of the house roped off as private space.

Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University

The Frick Collection is a diptych; one half is comprised of the museum, the other is comprised of a center for research in art history, the Frick Art Reference Library, entered on 71st Street. One of the virtues of the proposal is that the library’s profile will be heightened by a publicly accessible connection uniting both halves of the institution. To the general public, the library is a “hidden” Frick, less known despite being one of this country’s oldest and most respected centers for research in the history of art. The library also supports fellowships and internships for the training of future museum curators and welcomes a broad base of local and international users.

Jonathan Brown, Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Fine Arts, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

We tend to think of The Frick Collection as an unchanging installation housed in a static building. In fact, the permanent collection and the domicile have been constantly evolving since the Frick opened its doors many decades ago. The later establishment of the Frick Art Reference Library is but the most significant example of this constant capacity for tasteful and discerning renewal. This latest proposal is a continuation of a longstanding tradition, not only in terms of providing more space to display the collection and develop the Library, but also in its sensitivity to what already exists, including the surrounding neighborhood. As a result of the proposed plan, The Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library will become more than ever a prime destination for visitors and scholars from around the world. If―and when―the project is carried through, the Frick will be immeasurably enriched and so too will the cultural life of New York.

Sir David Cannadine, historian and author

The Frick is one of the city’s great treasures and the institution has been a valued partner of The Academy for Teachers for five years, one of our favorite partners, in fact. The Frick is in complete accord with our mission: to honor and support great teachers in New York City by bringing them together with leading experts for master classes and other events held in partnership with the city’s great cultural and academic institutions. The current configuration of the Frick limits what its education department can offer. This, in turn, limits what the Frick and The Academy for Teachers can do as partners. The proposed re-design is subtle, restrained, and respectful of both past and present. It will provide the Frick’s education department much needed space, allowing them to offer a wider array of their brilliant programs, which would be of huge benefit to the city’s students.

Sam Swope, President, The Academy for Teachers

Job Path is a non-profit organization that finds meaningful work for adults with developmental disabilities. At this time we have four amazing participants who are employed by The Frick Collection. The staff at the Frick have opened their hearts to the people I support. The Frick has created an understanding and inclusive workplace which is truly exceptional. As someone who helps people with disabilities, I am happy that the new plan includes a ramp next to the entrances and includes other accessibility upgrades.

Gretchen Zufall, Senior Employment Specialist, Job Path

The Frick Collection has opened the world of Old Masters to generation after generation in a very seductive way by drawing audiences into the very setting for which such exemplary works were collected―and continue to be acquired. The Frick has also offered brilliant scholarship through a program of well-scaled presentations such as those on Bellini, El Greco, Goya, Greuze, Renoir, Velázquez, and Watteau. I applaud the Frick’s well-reasoned expansion proposal, which includes a handsome new main-floor room for the display of temporary exhibitions, one that is logically contiguous to the museum’s permanent collection. This will be a dramatic improvement over the use of the low-ceilinged exhibition rooms in the basement, which can seem dreary―if not claustrophobic―and don’t project a sense of the Frick’s special qualities as a museum in a mansion. Furthermore, knowing how subtly and wisely the institution has grown in the past, I am confident that the plan appropriately addresses the needs of this remarkable museum and library.

Margot Gordon, Margot Gordon Fine Arts

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