I write to respectfully urge you, the Trustees, to do all in your powers to preserve the Corcoran Gallery of Art – in place, in its landmark beaux arts building at 17th Street and New York Avenue, NW.
The mere suggestion of a possible sale and subsequent relocation has created an enormous groundswell of art world and community concern, objection, and in some quarters, outrage.
This outpouring is genuine and as passionate as it was unexpected. The consensus is that the loss of so formidable and consequential a Temple of Art as is the Corcoran’s late 19th century Ernest Flagg designed building is simply too catastrophic to contemplate.
Crisis creates opportunity and the search for a new director, or CEO as the position is called, is laudable. An entrepreneurial, visionary and tireless museum professional who can turn this situation around will be well rewarded and remembered. By the same token, history will not look kindly on those of us who would let the Corcoran slip away for lack of something that the Art World is currently awash in – money.
I would further urge the Trustees not to be blinded by the scarlet ink of a bottom line. The Corcoran’s future can be as bright as its luminous past. Surely this audible outcry from an impassioned public can be converted into positive benefit for the preservation, improvement, advancement and financial stability of the Corcoran – in place.
To my mind, the solution to the Corcoran’s dilemma and its cause are one and the same – institutional memory, and the lack thereof. With the sesquicentennial celebration of the Corcoran’s founding less than a decade away, it would appear some soul searching of a serious nature is in order.
Outreach of every stripe – traveling the priceless collection, satellite galleries, off-site studios and classrooms, suburban branches… would be welcome. But the Corcoran’s greatest asset, its most important work of art, its very core, is without question the building itself.
It is said that life is short, yet Art is long. Trustees, directors, curators, registrars, even artists, come and go but Art, we like to think, is forever. After all these years, the Corcoran Gallery of Art now belongs to our generation – but it is only ours in trust. To abandon and dispose of this building would be to breach a trust that is as sacred as anything in the secular world.
I respectfully urge you, not to let that happen.
August 9, 2012