The Frick Collection is starting a new chapter after 85 gorgeous years at its 1 East 70th Street mansion.
Starting March 15, The Frick Madison will be open at 945 Madison Avenue—the former home of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Met Breuer—while Henry Clay Frick's mansion undergoes a massive renovation. This new stint will last two years, and while the Brutalist building by Marcel Breuer is a huge departure from the Gilded Age mansion, the space is offering a much different and rare look at the collection, according to museum officials.
Unlike at the Frick Mansion, the Breuer building is a clean slate—stark in contrast, which actually helps to attract the viewer's attention to individual works. Eyes aren't busy looking at ornate furniture here. It's all about seeing the smaller details in the artwork that you might have overlooked at the mansion. According to Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Director Ian Wardropper, "It's a different Frick than you’ve ever known."
So before you jump on the train to check out the museum's new digs, here's what you'll need to know.
You don't want to miss certain moments in the Frick Madison. While the Frick Collection as a whole is certainly impressive, there are new ways to experience them at Frick Madison that weren't there before. We scouted out the museum on Thursday so you know exactly what to keep an eye on when you go.
Firstly, download the Bloomberg Connects app on your phone. Most of the artwork at Frick Madison does not have descriptions on the wall alongside them. For that, we recommend the app, which has both text descriptions and short two- to three-minute audio clips by the curators, Xavier F. Salomon and Aimee Ng.
Don't miss these rooms:
Vermeer (Room 6)
If you love Girl with a Pearl Earring, you'll want to feast your eyes on this room reserved for Vermeer paintings only. There's plenty of space to spend time with Mistress and Maid (the last work that Frick acquired before he died in 1919) and Officer and Laughing Girl.
"On rare occasions, we've shown them together before, but never like this, where you're surrounded on three sides by Vermeer," Ng said on Thursday. "You almost encounter them anew...without the furnishings and chairs installed in front of paintings, in this simple architecture of the building, you feel like you're meeting them for the first time. Their subtle details and images suddenly emerge."
Van Dyck (Room 5)
Missing the Van Dyck room is impossible because his portraits, for the most part, are absolutely gigantic. Frick himself had more works by this artist than any other European painter. And for the first time, you can see these eight works—spanning all periods of his life—together in one room.
Bellini’s St. Francis (Room 13)
You'll want to spend some time with Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert. Painted in the late 1740s, it shows the saint with arms wide open with the sunlight shining down on him from the upper left-hand corner of the painting. It's one of the Frick's most beloved paintings, and it has been placed in its very own room with a window.
"Here, [the painting] seems to be enjoying his moment of solitude," said Ng. "The painting is about faith, nature and human kind's place in nature, and above all, it's about light. We put this painting in conversation with the Breuer's trapezoidal window." Doing so mirrors the painting's source of light with actual light from the outdoors to create a "chapel-like" experience.
Female Venetian artist (Room 12)
Not many female painters were celebrated in the 18th century, but one of them, Rosalba Carriera, was renowned for her portraits. You can see two of them in this small room off to the side of the main Italian room.
Enamels and Clocks (Room 16)
You will want to spend more time looking at the intricate details on these incredible enamels and clocks produced between 1540 and 1640. Many of the enamels came from the collection of John Pierpont Morgan (the same one behind the Morgan Library & Museum) and were used and displayed as tableware. Across the way in the same room, gaze at the inner workings of clocks and watches that date to the 16th and 17th centuries.
Fragonard (Room 24 and 25)
Frick Madison has a lot of ornate French artwork, but Fragonard's monumental canvases are absolutely stunning. His Progress of Love artworks for the mistress of King Louis XV (Madame du Barry), were made for her home but she (shockingly) rejected them. In the next room, you'll see a handful of more canvases that complement the Progress of Love paintings. These tall canvases decorated the artist's cousin's home outside of Paris. This is the first time both "campaigns" of Progress of Love have been shown together at the Frick.
Marie Antoinette furniture (Room 19)
The Frick Collection's wildly decorative furniture gets its own spotlight here, and most interestingly, are two pieces that Marie-Antoinette actually owned. Jean-Henri Riesener crafted a matching commode and secretaire for her the year she ascended to the throne with King Louis XVI. They're so ornate, with gilt bronze, leather, marble and wood, that it's easy to imagine just how luxurious their palace was. Above them, porcelain pieces are showcased.
Whistler (Room 22)
Frick Collection features one American-born artist, Whistler, in his own room. If you don't know, Whistler created portraits of London's social elites. His gorgeous paintings were inspired by Japanese prints, which is reflected in his use of a butterfly monogram he used to sign his works.
Those who love impressionism can find their favorites in the last room—Degas, Manet, Monet, Renoir and Corot.
Starting March 18, 2021, Frick Madison will be open four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, from 10am to 6pm. Capacity is capped at 25 percent, so general admission tickets have to be purchased online in advance. (Free admission to the reading room is also timed and by appointment.) Don't forget your mask and make sure to stay at least six feet from others. Grab your ticket at frick.org/tickets. Adult tickets are $22.
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