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If you’ve ever walked down the foyer of the Frick Museum, you’ve probably paused curiously in front of the roped-off white marble staircase anchoring the hall to your right. It ascends toward the neoclassical museum’s second floor, a mysterious realm that has never been open to the public. Now, thanks to a recently announced expansion plan, it won’t be long before you can wander to your heart’s content.
The second-floor rooms are set to be converted into galleries, providing a home for those members of the museum’s 1,200-item permanent collection which have until now been banished to storage. Images of the upstairs reveal casual, laid-back quarters where the Frick family slept, studied and took breakfast — a sharp contrast to their former home’s opulent downstairs space.
“Opening gallery space on the second floor will allow us to show more of our collection’s decorative arts, bronze statuettes, small scale paintings, and drawings — works that may be lost in the larger galleries downstairs because of their smaller scale,” Heidi Rosenau, associate director of media relations and marketing, told Hyperallergic.
The conceptual design by Davis Brody Bond Architects and Planners (the firm that helmed the museum’s fourth enlargment in 2011) also has some bold additions that could turn the Frick into a mini Louvre. That dreamy courtyard garden with the birdbath that you’re also not allowed to enter? It’s going to get knocked out to accommodate an additional gallery on the main floor.
“[It] will give us greater flexibility and allow us to host special exhibitions of larger individual works, such as full-length paintings, that cannot currently be shown in the special exhibition galleries in our basement,” Rosenau said. The new gallery will also help them avoid displacing permanent works like the much-loved Whistler paintings when they hold temporary shows.
The most dramatic addition of all will be the construction of an “architecturally respectful” six-story wing to the East 70th Street side of the museum. It will house more gallery, library, conservation and administrative space, as well as classrooms, a 220-seat auditorium and a rooftop garden.
Altogether, the expansion will add an additional 42,000 square feet of space, increasing the Frick’s footprint by a third.