Press Release  March 5, 2021

The Frick Madison Opens With Highlights Reconsidered

Photo by Joe Coscia.

Fragonard,The Progress of Love, 1771–72. The Frick Collection, New York.

New York — On Thursday, March 18, 2021, The Frick Collection launches Frick Madison, the long-awaited public opening of its temporary new home on Madison Avenue. Frick Madison invites audiences to experience the beloved holdings of the institution, reframed in a completely new context. Serving as the Frick’s temporary home for the next two years while its historic buildings at 1 East 70th Street undergo renovation, Frick Madison marks the first time that a substantial gathering of collection highlights will be presented outside the walls of the museum’s Gilded Age mansion.

In a departure from the Frick’s customary presentation style, works are organized at Frick Madison chronologically and by region, allowing for fresh juxtapositions and new insights about the treasured paintings and sculptures by Bellini, Clodion, Gainsborough, Goya, Holbein, Houdon, Ingres, Piero della Francesca, Rembrandt, Titian, Turner, Velázquez, Vermeer, Whistler, and many others. The installation also spotlights the Frick’s impressive holdings of decorative arts and sculpture, as well as rarely seen works, including the entirety of canvases from the famed series by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, shown together for the first time in the institution’s history. Frick Madison is located at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street, the former site of the Met Breuer and, previously, the Whitney Museum of American Art, which commissioned the building in 1966 by architect Marcel Breuer.

Comments Ian Wardropper, Anna-Maria, and Stephen Kellen Director, “We are thrilled that the public can continue to enjoy these great works of art from our collections during a time when they otherwise would be inaccessible as we renovate and enhance our home at 1 East 70th Street. The minimalism of Marcel Breuer’s mid-century architecture provides a unique backdrop for our Old Masters, and the result is a not-to-be-missed experience, one that our public is sure to find engaging and thought-provoking.”

Photo: Michael Bodycomb.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir. La Promenade, 1875–76. Oil on canvas. 67 x 42 5/8 inches. The Frick Collection, New York.

The Frick has created a sequence of gallery spaces at Frick Madison that reflects the museum’s traditional emphasis on intimate encounters with both art and architecture and allows direct access to objects without the interference of vitrines or stanchions.

Recognizing that Marcel Breuer’s stark creation of stone and concrete provides a very different museum experience than that offered by the Frick’s Beaux-Arts mansion, the curatorial team has embraced this modernist setting as a unique opportunity.

Rather than attempting to replicate the mansion’s domestic display, the installation respects the forms and materials Breuer used, juxtaposing beloved Frick masterpieces with the building’s distinct architectural features, such as its signature trapezoid windows.

Comments Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Xavier F. Salomon, “From the very beginning we sought to marry our holdings with Marcel Breuer’s great modernist building, with the intention of revealing the Frick’s strengths in a new way, while inspiring fresh conversations and observations.

Throughout the installation, we’ve maintained the core value of the Frick experience: offering visitors the opportunity to study works of art in a direct and immediate way, surrounded by a beautiful and peaceful environment. Rather than trying to recreate the rooms of the mansion, we celebrate this architectural icon, hoping audiences emerge with new understandings of both its features and spaces, and of our remarkable and very distinct collection.”

Across three floors of the Breuer building, paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts are organized loosely by time period, geographic region, and media. Highlighting strengths in particular schools and genres, the display at Frick Madison features galleries dedicated to Northern European, Italian, Spanish, British, and French art, setting the stage for rooms devoted
exclusively to individual artists. These new groupings reveal unexpected relationships between subjects, artists, and media.

On the second floor, Northern European paintings represent modern-day Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. These works share the general characteristics of precision and highly naturalistic depictions of their subjects, ranging from Memling’s and Holbein’s contemporary sitters to Van Eyck’s and David’s religious figures to Bruegel’s sinewy soldiers. Holbein’s iconic portraits of Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell hang together, alone, without other works; here the famously oppositional figures seem to confront each more directly than was possible at the mansion. Three stunning paintings by Rembrandt, his Self-Portrait, that of Nicolaes Ruts, and the enigmatic Polish Rider, are shown side by side. Nearby are the Frick’s three Vermeers, genre scenes of men and women presented within domestic interiors. These panels are seldom shown in such unmediated proximity, and here surround visitors on three walls.

photo: Joe Coscia.

Installation view, portraits by Hans Holbein the Younger face-off: Sir Thomas More (left), 1527, oil on panel, and Thomas Cromwell (right), ca. 1532–33, oil on panel, The Frick Madison, New York.

For the first time ever, the Frick’s substantial group of eight full- and half-length portraits by Van Dyck, spanning all periods and geographic locations of his oeuvre, are displayed together in one room. Portraits by Frans Hals are presented nearby, in addition to landscapes by Hobbema and Ruysdael, which evoke the lyrical beauty of the countryside of the Low Countries.

One floor above, the Italian and Spanish schools are presented. Diminutive gold ground panels by early Italian religious artists including Cimabue, Duccio, and Piero della Francisca come together in an intimate gallery. Such panels are found in very few collections across the United States and particularly represent the taste of Helen Clay Frick, the daughter of the museum’s founder, founder of the Frick Art Reference Library, and a longtime Trustee of the institution. In a central cross-shaped space, visitors will encounter contrastingly grand Renaissance work favored by Henry Clay Frick, including beloved works by Titian, Bronzino, and Veronese.

Many consider Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert to be the greatest Renaissance painting in America; it is arguably the most beloved at the Frick. Its position in the mansion, dominating a wall in the central Living Hall, suggests the esteem held for it by Henry Clay Frick. Amidst the luxurious domestic setting of the mansion, generations of visitors have sought out this majestic work to contemplate the complexities of meanings hidden within the objects depicted. Visitors to Frick Madison will find this masterpiece in a third-floor room of the Breuer building, shown in splendid isolation. Here the panel can be experienced in a chapel-like space. adjacent to one of Breuer’s trapezoidal windows, which allows the natural light of Manhattan to merge with the divine light depicted in the painting.

The display of Italian work continues on this floor with Venetian eighteenth-century paintings by Guardi and Tiepolo. Two recent acquisitions, gifted by the estate of Alexis Gregory, are also on view: a stunning pair of portraits by Rosalba Carriera, one of the most important eighteenth-century pastel artists, who was also active in Venice. Finally, an unprecedented arrangement of nine Spanish paintings by Velázquez, Murillo, El Greco, and Goya—works typically scattered throughout the mansion—asserts Henry Clay Frick’s great interest in Spanish masters.

Photo: Joe Coscia.

Two rare and infrequently displayed Indian Mughal carpets, seventeenth-century. Frick Madison, New York City.

On the fourth floor of the Breuer building, visitors will find the work of British and French artists, represented through Henry Clay Frick’s love of portraiture, landscape painting, and sculpture. Paintings from the British School are by far the best represented in the Frick’s holdings, a fact that was not as apparent until now, since previously these works were dispersed throughout various rooms of the historic mansion. Hung together at Frick Madison for the first time, seven canvases by Gainsborough (the largest gathering by the artist in any New York Museum) are shown alongside portraits by Hogarth, Lawrence, Reynolds, and Romney, together representing nearly one hundred years of remarkable British portraiture.

Visitors will next encounter landscapes by two great titans of the genre—Constable and Turner—which together represent a critical moment in early nineteenth-century British painting. Visitors can compare Constable’s naturalistic, nostalgic depiction of the English countryside with Turner’s bustling French harbors. In some sense, this installation offers a distillation of the period, when these contemporaries attempted to define modern painting, offering profoundly opposing approaches. Another gallery on this level features four full-length portraits by American-born James McNeil Whistler, the London-based artist who is the best represented in the Frick’s holdings. These beloved works have often been relegated to storage to make room for major special exhibitions, an issue the renovation and enhancement project will correct with the addition of a new gallery dedicated exclusively to special exhibitions.

The fourth floor also offers a focused look at the institution’s French works, represented by eighteenth-century artists Boucher, Chardin, Greuze, and Fragonard. Of particular note are the fourteen paintings of Fragonard’s Progress of Love series, now displayed together for the first time in the institution’s history. This installation also includes three decorative panels of hollyhocks, which have been in storage much of the time since Mr. Frick purchased the cycle for his home in 1915. At Frick Madison the series is displayed to reflect its history, as it was created during two distinct campaigns, twenty years apart.

The initial four canvases (1771–72) are shown for the first time in the original sequence envisioned by the artist when they were commissioned by Louis XV’s mistress Madame du Barry. They are shown in a gallery approximately the same size as their intended home outside Paris, overlooking not the Seine River but Madison Avenue, illuminated by another one of Breuer’s signature windows. In an adjacent room are the ten canvases painted by Fragonard twenty years after the original four, together in an arrangement that was never possible in the mansion, owing to space constraints. Punctuating this unprecedented installation is a dramatic wall that gathers together the full set of Fragonard’s cupid-themed overdoors. Succeeding generations of French masters including Ingres, David, and others are featured in another gallery. A Barbizon landscape by Corot leads to the final gallery that displays some of the most modern works in the collection, Manet’s Bullfight and Impressionist canvases by Degas, Monet, and Renoir.

Photo: Joe Coscia.

Installation view of Manet (at left), Degas (center left), and Monet (right)—among the most modern works in The Frick Collection— with a view-through to an earlier French portrait by Ingres (center). Frick Madison, New York City.

While the institution is home to one of the most significant collections of sculpture and decorative arts in the United States, for many, the Frick experience has always been most shaped by the paintings in its lavish domestic interiors. Within the context of the mansion, the Frick’s impressive sculpture can sometimes be perceived merely as decorative when viewed head-on in front of a painting, while its decorative arts collection can go unnoticed. At Frick Madison, sculpture and decorative arts are presented independently, as works of art in their own right.

To highlight the importance of these works, the first object the visitor encounters on each floor of Frick Madison is a sculpture. On the second floor, which is dedicated to Northern European art, the Barbet Angel is given center stage in a room of its own. Often overlooked amidst the lush plantings of the Garden Court, the Angel is one of the Frick’s most prized works and possibly the only monumental fifteenth-century French bronze sculpture in existence, as most large French metalwork from that period was melted down during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Cast by a cannon maker, the Barbet Angel stands atop a column, which invites visitors to move around it, to enjoy and appreciate the sculpture from all sides. Installed at Frick Madison, the Angel provides a bold new introduction to the collection, as well as a pronouncement on (and benchmark for) the importance of the institution’s sculptures.

A third-floor gallery is dedicated entirely to works in bronze. Straying from the sparseness of the Frick Madison display, this space evokes a fifteenth- or sixteenth-century studio and features a selection of the finest bronzes acquired by Henry Clay Frick from J. P. Morgan’s estate in 1916. At 1 East 70th Street, bronze statuettes have often been displayed to ornament the furniture; at Frick Madison, they are arranged in dialogue with each other, enabling visitors to study them closely. Also on prominent view for the first time is Francesco da Sangallo’s St. John Baptizing, the artist’s only signed bronze and the only such statuette at the Frick that was made to decorate a church. Designed to crown a marble font in Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato (near Florence), the statuette is shown at Frick Madison in a manner not attempted in the residential backdrop of the mansion: atop a replica of the font on which it stood until the 1890s. The creation of this base by Factum Arte, made possible by a generous gift of Fabrizio Moretti, enables visitors at Frick Madison to imagine the object’s original context.

The third floor also includes a series of galleries devoted to decorative artworks, offered in dramatic displays outside of the domestic setting in which they are usually seen. Concentrated groupings of clocks and Limoges enamels offer fresh focus to two lesser-known but significant strengths of the Frick’s holdings. Another space features prized seventeenth-century Indian carpets, not shown on the floor as “furnishings,” but hung on the wall in the manner of paintings nearby (see below). Particularly arresting is a gallery displaying floor-to-ceiling porcelain organized by color, rather than by function, origin, or the date of manufacture. This blended presentation underscores how strongly influenced European firms such as Meissen and Du Paquier were by earlier and contemporary Asian wares. The confluence of East and West is further amplified by Baroque furniture. Examples by Boulle and the van Riesenburghs feature ebony, tortoiseshell, and repurposed Japanese lacquerware, materials available through emerging global trade networks. Also on the fourth floor, visitors will encounter several fine examples of important

French eighteenth-century furniture and ceramics, including the stunning fall-front desk and commode made for Marie Antoinette by royal cabinetmaker Riesener—often overlooked in the mansion by those seeking nearby Vermeers—and a remarkable marble and gilt-bronze table by Gouthière—often missed in the residence by those drawn to the Frick’s signature Ingres portrait traditionally installed above it. At Frick Madison, displayed hovering above, but not on this furniture, are several of the museum’s most important examples of early Sèvres porcelain, including the recently acquired Vase Japon and a pair of candelabra by Gouthière.

photo: Joe Coscia.

Jean Barbet, Angel, 1475, greets visitors on the second floor of Frick Madison, New York City.

This installation was organized by the Frick’s curatorial team, led by Xavier F. Salomon, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, with Curator Aimee Ng, incoming Assistant Curator for Sculpture Giulio Dalvit, and former Curator of Decorative Arts Charlotte Vignon, now director of the Musée National de Céramique in Sèvres. The plan was created in consultation with the Frick’s longtime exhibition designer Stephen Saitas and Selldorf Architects, the firm responsible for the institution’s building project.

Major support for the installation at Frick Madison is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Denise Littlefield Sobel, an anonymous gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden, The Christian Humann Foundation, and by David and Julie Tobey. Additional funding is generously provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Acquavella Family Foundation, The Arthur F. and Alice E. Adams Charitable Foundation, Larry Gagosian, Drue and H.J. Heinz II Charitable Trust, the Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation, The Honorable and Mrs. Earle Mack, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, Joanne Payson in memory of John Whitney Payson, Fabrizio Moretti, the David L. Klein, Jr. Foundation, Elizabeth F. Stribling and Guy Robinson, Eiko and Michael Assael, Christie’s, Elise Frick, Hubert and Mireille Goldschmidt, Jane Richards in honor of Elizabeth M. Eveillard, and Sotheby’s.

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