Renovation and Enhancement Project
For nearly ninety years, visitors from around the world have been deeply moved by the beauty and tranquility of The Frick Collection. To ensure the continued quality of the Frick experience, we have undertaken a renovation and enhancement project that will enable us to better serve a twenty-first-century audience. Carried out with care and sensitivity, the project will make more of the 1914 Carrère and Hastings mansion accessible to the public. Critical updates to the buildings’ infrastructure will allow us to provide the highest standard of care for the priceless collections they house, while the addition of new amenities and improved accessibility will ensure an unparalleled experience for an international community of art lovers, students, and scholars.
To design the project, the Frick selected Selldorf Architects, a firm internationally recognized for its renovations and additions that honor a building’s original character. Selldorf has partnered with executive architect Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, one of the country’s leading firms for historic preservation.
This project is the Frick’s first comprehensive renovation and upgrade since 1935. We will:
- Open the mansion’s second floor to the public and create a dedicated space on the first floor for special exhibitions
- Create designated, state-of-the-art spaces for education, research, and public programs
- Add visitor amenities, including a café and an auditorium
- Update critical infrastructure, including modernizing conservation studios
- Physically unite the museum and the adjacent Frick Art Reference Library to foster collaboration between visitors, scholars, and staff
- Improve ADA accessibility throughout the museum and library
New Gallery Spaces
The Second Floor
For the first time, the public will be able to access the mansion’s second floor, which is especially well suited for the presentation of small-scale sculptures, ceramics, portrait medals, drawings, and paintings. Galleries on the second floor will increase the museum’s display space for permanent collection objects by 25 percent, enabling visitors to enjoy more of the Frick’s art than ever before.
Special Exhibition Galleries
The Frick’s special exhibitions are acclaimed for their quality, originality, and intellectual rigor. A suite of three new galleries on the museum's first floor will provide dedicated space for special exhibitions, allowing—for the first time—works from the permanent collection to remain on view alongside loaned objects, instead of being removed to temporary storage.
The Boucher Room
A highlight of the second floor will be a gallery dedicated to a series of mid-eighteenth-century decorative panels by François Boucher and his workshop, which have been reinstalled in the room they occupied during Henry Clay Frick’s lifetime. This intimate space, overlooking Fifth Avenue and Central Park, also will be used to display French furniture and Sèvres porcelain from the same period.
Public Program Facilities
Community outreach is crucial to the Frick’s mission. For the first time, a dedicated education room will address the needs of students and adult audiences by providing a flexible, multi-purpose space for courses, seminars, and programs. In order to streamline their visits, school groups will now enter on East 71st Street, enjoy dedicated restrooms and coat-check facilities, and access the galleries via the new education entry hall.
The Frick Collection’s celebrated holdings are complemented by a robust calendar of lectures, symposia, and concerts. A new, larger auditorium will better accommodate audiences, and state-of-the-art acoustics will improve the sound quality of all programs. It will have integrated assistive listening capabilities, recording facilities, and a livestream connection to the education room. In addition, an anteroom and separate restroom facilities will ensure ease of access and visitor comfort.
Designated Space for Library Activities
Since its founding in 1920, the Frick Art Reference Library has been a leader in information science in the field of art history. Upgrades to the library’s facilities will enable it to continue its pioneering efforts in the areas of digitization, born-digital resources, and digital art history. The project will upgrade conservation facilities and create spaces for researchers to meet and collaborate.
The project will add much-needed amenities that will improve the visitor experience:
- An upgraded reception hall with larger membership and ticketing desks, as well as an expanded coat-check facility on the lower level, will ensure a smooth and comfortable arrival.
- A 60-seat café overlooking the 70th Street Garden will provide a place for visitors to meet and enjoy refreshments.
- A more spacious, light-filled museum shop will feature an adjacent seating area overlooking the restored 70th Street Garden where visitors can read and relax.
- ADA-accessible entrance ramps and new elevators will allow visitors to easily access the entire museum and library, including the second-floor galleries and the auditorium.
- ADA-accessible restrooms will be available on multiple levels.
Caring for the Collection
The Frick’s sculptures and decorative arts receive preventive care, treatment, and technical study onsite. A new conservation center will have dedicated workspaces, state-of-the-art equipment, natural light, running water, an exhaust system, and other necessary amenities in order to provide the highest caliber of care for objects in the permanent collection. For the first time, a purpose-built art elevator will connect storage areas to the galleries and the conservation center, ensuring the safe and efficient transport of works of art.
The Frick Art Reference Library’s conservation studio is responsible for the preservation of a world-class collection of rare books, drawings, photographs, and archival materials. In close consultation with the curatorial team, the library’s conservators also treat prints and drawings from the museum’s permanent collection and works on paper loaned for special exhibitions. With high-efficiency, state-of-the-art equipment, the library’s new conservation studio will have versatile workspaces where multiple treatments can be performed simultaneously. Its digital lab—which makes the library’s unique resources available online to scholars worldwide—will also feature improved facilities, including space for photographing oversized materials.
Connecting the Museum and Library
The Frick Art Reference Library is housed in a landmarked building on East 71st Street, a block north of the museum. Uniting the museum and library will enable visitors, scholars, and staff to move between the two branches of the institution, conveniently accessing the facilities and resources of both.
A modest addition has been built in the utility yard between the back of the library and the rear wall of the 70th Street Garden, creating passageways that unite the museum and library on multiple levels. Finished with Indiana limestone, the exterior façade complements the 1914 mansion, the 1935 addition, and the surrounding neighborhood and provides a refined backdrop for the adjacent garden, which was designed by Russell Page in the late 1970s and will be fully restored as part of the project.
The Frick’s historic buildings are more than a century old. Outdated and energy-inefficient infrastructure is being modernized to ensure the preservation of the house and library as well as their contents. The Frick is actively pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for achievements in improving sustainability and energy efficiency.
To date, we have completed the following projects:
- The 1914 mansion’s original steam heating and cooling systems have been replaced with state-of-the-art heating, cooling, and humidification systems that maintain museum-quality conditions while significantly improving energy efficiency.
- Outdated electrical wiring has been replaced.
- Antiquated skylights in the galleries have been replaced with ultraviolet-protected glass.
- The lighting throughout the museum, including historic fixtures, has been upgraded for improved visibility of artwork and greater energy efficiency.
- Waterproofing beneath the 70th Street Garden has been replaced.
- State-of-the-art sprinkler, fire alarm, security, and IT systems have been installed.
- Ramps at public entrances and seven interior elevators have been added to improve access to all public spaces, as well as back-of-house areas for employees.
Annabelle Selldorf, FAIA, Principal
Design Architects of The Frick Collection’s renovation and enhancement, Selldorf Architects is a 70-person architectural practice founded by Annabelle Selldorf in New York City in 1988. The firm has particular expertise in the complex requirements of cultural projects, having completed numerous museums, galleries, exhibition spaces, study centers, and artists’ studios. Past museum clients include the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luma Arles, Clark Art Institute, and Neue Galerie New York. Currently, Selldorf is leading the renovation of the Sainsbury Wing and surrounding public realm at the National Gallery London, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden revitalization, and a 50,000-square-foot expansion of the Art Gallery of Ontario. The firm has also designed several galleries for David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth, among others, and worked with the Frick on the design of its temporary Frick Madison installation.
Richard W. Southwick, FAIA, Partner, Director of Historic Preservation
Beyer Blinder Belle
Founded in 1968, Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB) is acclaimed for revitalizing some of America’s most iconic public buildings and cultural institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the U.S. Capitol, Grand Central Terminal, New York City Hall, the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, the Rubell Museum DC, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, Cooper Hewitt-Smithsonian Design Museum, and the TWA Hotel at JFK International Airport. A comprehensive exploration of historic, cultural, and civic meaning guides the firm’s work, while its design is contemporary and reflects the materials and technologies of today. As executive architects for the Frick's renovation project, Beyer Blinder Belle is providing project management and historic preservation expertise.
Frequently Asked Questions
The renovation and enhancement of The Frick Collection’s historic buildings represents the most comprehensive upgrade to our facilities since the museum opened nearly ninety years ago, in 1935. The project—designed by Selldorf Architects, together with Beyer Blinder Belle as Preservation and Executive Architect—will preserve the intimate visitor experience for which the Frick is known, while enabling the museum and library to better serve a twenty-first-century audience.
Along with refreshing the museum’s original galleries, the project will allow the public to experience more of the original Frick family residence. We are also adding important amenities for visitors as well as new spaces for special exhibitions, education and public programs, and conservation. Critical upgrades to infrastructure will greatly improve physical accessibility, and newly replaced, state-of-the-art lighting, heating, and cooling systems will ensure the vitality of the Frick and its unparalleled collections for the enjoyment of generations to come.
For the first time, we will open to the public a series of rooms on the second floor of the historic Frick mansion, providing a beautiful setting for the display of decorative arts, drawings, and other small-scale works from the collection. Together with a suite of new special exhibition galleries on the main floor, these spaces will increase the museum’s display area by 30 percent.
The project also adds a new café, a dedicated, purpose-built education center (the first in the Frick’s history), and a state-of-the-art auditorium to better accommodate public programs.
New amenities and enhancements will facilitate access for visitors with disabilities and will improve circulation throughout the Frick’s buildings. This includes physically uniting the museum and the adjacent Frick Art Reference Library, fostering greater collaboration and access between the two branches of the institution.
In addition to upgrading critical infrastructure, the project is also modernizing back-of-house facilities, including new conservation studios used to treat objects in the collections of the museum and library.
Visitors will continue to experience the museum’s main-floor galleries as they have for decades. These spaces are being carefully preserved to honor their historic character and to maintain The Frick Collection’s intimate settings for current and future generations. Thanks to new skylights and greatly improved LED lighting, the public will enjoy a better viewing experience of the collection throughout all of the main-floor galleries. The one notable change is the reinstallation of the Boucher Room in a dedicated space on the second floor, where the gallery was located during Henry Clay Frick’s lifetime.
The renovation and enhancement of our historic buildings is made possible thanks to the generosity of individuals and foundations, with additional support allocated by the City of New York through the New York City Council and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President. You can find more information on our press page. To date, we have raised close to 85% of the necessary funds. We welcome donations of any amount to help us cross the finish line. Thank you!
With much exterior work having been completed—from the installation of matching Indiana limestone on areas of new construction to the replacement of skylights—the project team is now focused on interior work. For a behind-the-scenes look into some of these projects, enjoy a series of videos on our Renovation Stories page.
Frick Madison is open through March 3, 2024. You can find details about the installations, exhibitions, and programming we will offer through the remainder of our acclaimed temporary residency in our final-year announcement.
All renderings courtesy of Selldorf Architects
Library program, photo by George Koelle
Workspace over the West Gallery during skylight replacement, photo by George Koelle
Boucher detail from The Arts and Sciences: Architecture and Chemistry, ca. 1760, oil on canvas, The Frick Collection, photo by Michael Bodycomb
Annabelle Selldorf, photo by Stephen Kent Johnson, courtesy of Selldorf Architects
Richard W. Southwick, photo courtesy of Beyer Blinder Belle