Save the Frick Collection's Music Room and Reception Hall
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SUPPORT THE DESIGNATION OF THESE INTERIORS AS OFFICIAL NYC LANDMARKS
Two beloved rooms at the Frick Collection–the Music Room and Reception Hall–are currently at risk of demolition as the museum undertakes an extensive expansion project helmed by Selldorf Architects.
The Music Room has long served as the city’s best performance space for small classical recitals and chamber music. Its architect, John Russell Pope, endowed the circular, top-lit domed room with the same graceful proportions and decorative program used throughout the Frick Collection’s adjacent galleries, seamlessly knitting it within a larger ensemble and situating it just off the Garden Court.
The room’s intimacy and acclaimed acoustics prompted the New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini to deem it “uniquely suited to chamber music” in his June 29 column, and called it “the closest thing to a 19th century music salon this city has to offer.”
Click here to read it: As the Frick Expands, New York City Music Suffers.
For over 80 years, numerous artists have made their American debut in this beautiful, culturally significant space, and “Concerts from the Frick” has delighted both radio broadcast audiences and recording artists as well. Generations of concertgoers have been charmed by recitals in this intimate room inside the mansion.
Under the Frick’s latest proposal, the Music Room would be replaced by galleries devoted to special exhibitions. Unfortunately, these proposed galleries will not only gut Pope's elegant round room and do away with its distinctive dome and skylight, but they lack the careful attention to detail one finds in Pope’s Music Room and fail to harmoniously integrate with the rest of museum. This is particularly ironic, because John Russell Pope designed the Music Room to function as both a gallery and recital hall. The loss of the Music Room will be keenly felt by music and architecture lovers alike. Historic preservation advocate Theodore Grunewald has stated that “destroying the Frick’s Music Room would be an erasure of New York City’s cultural and civic memory.”
Equally alarming, the Frick’s latest plan would gut the Reception Hall designed by John Barrington Bayley in 1977. Overlooked by the architectural establishment, and the only surviving work of this architect, Bayley’s Reception Hall represents a radical departure from the modernist precepts of its day. Richly appointed in boiserie, its design seemingly transports a Louis XIV-style pavilion straight from Versailles to the New York City, offering visitors the ideal Classical “picture frame” for viewing the Russell Page garden. It has been identified as an important prefiguration to the Postmodernist movement, and critic Paul Goldberger in his 1979 book The City Observed: New York: A Guide to the Architecture of Manhattan, pointed out that creating a true classical pavilion in the 1970s was “a daring idea.”
“It might have seemed ridiculous to some architects at the time, but," as Goldberger notes, “Modern architecture is a fallen angel, and what there is of an architectural vanguard seems more concerned with turning back to history again.” On its opening in 1977, then-New York Times architecture critic Goldberger noted the Reception Hall “was built as seriously as anything by the eclectic architects of the American 1920s...a worthy effort, rich in visual pleasure" and called it "an important milestone in the steady movement away from a world of just-steel-and-glass modernism.”
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Currently, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is reviewing a Request For Evaluation (RFE) to designate these spaces interior landmarks, preserving them for future generations. The agency should calendar these rooms for a landmark designation hearing without delay.
Just as retaining the Russell Page garden has resulted in a more refined plan, preserving these two special rooms would significantly improve an expansion that can still benefit from public input. Alternatives exist. It’s not too late to adjust plans accordingly.
Efforts to save the Music Room and incorporate it into the new plan are supported by historic preservation groups including the Historic Districts Council and the Society for the Architecture of the City.
On June 29, Vanity Fair architecture critic Paul Goldberger tweeted: "Although I have supported the Frick’s latest renovation plan (and continue to) I have become convinced that it should be revised further to save John Russell Pope’s exquisite music room."
Please join us and sign this electronic petition urging the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate these rooms as interior landmarks as soon as possible.
If you prefer to write to the NYC Landmarks Commission directly, send comments to:
Kate Lemos McHale
Director of Research
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commissioners
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor North
New York, NY 10007
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