Arts Desk

Corcoran: “We Need to Respect Financial Realities”

Corcoran Gallery May Sell Building, Move to AlexandriaWe reported today that the Corcoran Gallery of Art is considering selling its building at 17th Street and New York Avenue NW. Tonight, the institution released the following statement, which was forwarded to students at the Corcoran College of Art + Design.

Statement from the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design

The Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design is beginning to implement plans to ensure its long-term stability and attain a new level of vitality and excellence. In choosing this direction for the Corcoran, we have responded to the unique opportunities to realize more fully our founding mission of "encouraging American genius." At the same time, we need to respect financial and physical realities as we move forward.

Our plans begin from the understanding that education is the true foundation of everything we do–through our College, collection, and community programs. Our College is thriving, despite space limitations, and is poised for the growth that an outstanding school deserves. Our Trustees and senior staff are committed to making this growth happen.

At the same time, however, we recognize that the Corcoran is like most other museums throughout the country in having to struggle with the effects of a difficult economy. Unlike other art museums in Washington, though, we receive no federal funding. We must depend on earned income and fundraising–and our needs are made especially challenging by the high operating costs of a building that is beautiful but antiquated.

After a period of rigorous study assisted by many independent experts in the field, we have concluded that
we have a remarkable opportunity to expand the College and integrate it fully with the Gallery into a very effective educational organization with an outstanding collection
we would be hard-pressed to effect this integration in the existing building, which was not built for multi-purpose use and requires at least $100 million in renovations.
So, to move toward a robust and successful future for the Corcoran, we are evaluating all of our options for the building. Just as the Corcoran moved in 1897 to accommodate its growing collection, one of the clear options now is to consider relocating to a purpose-built, technologically advanced facility that is cost-effective to maintain.

In order for the Trustees to decide whether relocation is a viable option, the Corcoran will need to determine the market value of the building. If ultimately a decision is made to relocate, we are committed to reconstituting the Corcoran–both the Gallery and College–in a space that is more flexible and which will allow us to fulfill our mission. We are also committed to maintaining our ongoing College programs throughout any period of change and to staying in the greater Washington metropolitan area, while considering all options in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

Trustees and senior staff are undertaking an exhaustive review of the options as we move toward decisions that will realize a strong and vibrant future for the Corcoran.

We welcome your thoughts, which can be sent On behalf of the Board of Trustees, staff, and faculty, we thank you for your support.

Fred Bollerer, Director and President

Harry Hopper, Chairman, Board of Trustees

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Terry in Silver Spring

    It will cost $100 million for renovation. How much do they think it will cost to buy land in Alexandria, build a new building or renovate an existing one, then move the entire gallery collection and school across the river?

  • Dave

    Terry, those were my thoughts exactly.

    I don't doubt that the study they undertook was thorough, but there's a lot here that doesn't make sense. The cost of building or acquiring another building and moving the collection, for one. Second, the loss in visitors that would follow a decampment from 17th Street--particularly to any place in MD or VA.

    How did they go from proposing a Gehry addition only seven years ago to now stating that they might have to move because they can't afford their current building?

  • DCArts

    Ask their board. There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye:

    1 - their governance structure has been a mess for years
    2 - their inability to balance their budget (for years) has turned many a funder sour on them
    3 - their lack of community reach has cost them local supporters
    4 - their artistic programming isn't competitive. There is another non-federally supported small, admission charging museum in DC - the Phillips Collection - that isn't having any of these issues. Better collection, better programs, better community connectivity
    5 - lack of leadership continuity. See 'governance structure'... they've run through directors, COOs, CEOs, you name it, over the last ten years
    6 - no one on their leadership team has any experience running a museum or major arts institution

    Sadly, nothing about this is surprising to folks who have worked alongside the Corcoran for the last ten years.

  • LoyalColonial

    A merger with sister DC institution George Washington University would be a win(Corcoran)- win(GW)- win(DC)!

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