Arts Desk

Corcoran to Be Absorbed by National Gallery and George Washington University


Faculty at the Corcoran College of Art + Design were summoned to an all-faculty meeting at 4:30 p.m. today. Corcoran provost Bill Richardson urged all to attend, his "tone positive," according to one professor there. None of the professors I spoke with today knew going into the meeting that the Corcoran as they know it was soon to be no more.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design announced today a plan in which it would be absorbed by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. The National Gallery will assume control over the oldest private art collection in Washington, D.C.—some 17,000 objects, ranging from masterpiece paintings by Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Edwin Church to contemporary art installations by Jennifer Steinkamp and Janet Cardiff.

George Washington University will absorb the Corcoran College of Art + Design and take over the institution's Beaux Arts building at 17th Street and New York Avenue NW.

The plan, which must be approved by the boards of all three institutions, follows a lengthy courtship by the University of Maryland that was announced in April 2013. The announcement from leaders at both universities followed meetings between the Corcoran, the National Gallery, and George Washington University in October 2012 that ultimately proved fruitless. Or so it seemed until late last year, when Corcoran leaders began to quietly dial back what had seemed to be a certain arrangement between Maryland and the Corcoran.

Under the new plan, the National Gallery of Art would show modern and contemporary art at the Corcoran, which will be renamed the Corcoran Contemporary. That much it was already planning to do: In April of last year, the Corcoran and the National Gallery struck an agreement to showcase works and programming from the National Gallery's East Wing.

The deal gives the National Gallery a third wing, a goal that has seemed remote for the institution. The Corcoran Contemporary will preserve a "Corcoran Legacy" gallery to show works highly associated with the museum. In a statement, the Corcoran said that Corcoran-owned works not accessioned by the National Gallery will be subject to a "distribution policy and program."

Under GW's stewardship, the Corcoran College of Art + Design will maintain a distinct identity, according to the announcement.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Everyman

    And GW grabs the land..why am I not surprised? So what does GW get in the deal except another educational venue it can bring down to its level of mediocrity?

  • John

    "…the Corcoran is soon to go bankrupt. I'll go right on record as saying, I think they have less than 10 years themselves without merging with the Smithsonian or becoming part of George Washington University." ----- Walter Hopps on the Corcoran, in an interview with Judy R. Markley, March 23, 1988.

    Sometimes I think the real news here is that it took 15+ years for Hopps' prediction to come to fruition.

  • Payton Chung

    @everyman: the best non-Fed event venue in the city, a solid brand name to attach to its art school, and choice pickings of the Corcoran faculty.

  • GWalum

    This is a great deal for all involved - the Corcoran, George Washington University, the National Gallery and DC. GW will continue and enhance the educational mission of the Corcoran and will be preserving the landmark building, the National Gallery will be protecting the collection and all of this will happen in the District, keeping it local.

  • Will

    Does this also close the door on Rep. Mica's attempts to kick FTC out of their building and give it to the National Gallery?

  • Payton Chung

    @Will: had the same thought, but I doubt it since the FTC's Apex Building space is for offices rather than galleries.

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