That "Temporary" Frick Garden - It Was Created to Be Permanent

August 26, 2014 2:16 PM

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That "Temporary" Frick Garden - It Was Created to Be Permanent

In a bit of revisionist history, the garden at the Frick Collection designed by the world famous British landscape architect Russell Page (1906-1985) and once hailed by the New York Times as one of his "most important works," has been downgraded by museum officials to nothing more than an interim land use. The garden occupies space the museum wants for a proposed addition. Consequently, in order to demolish it, Frick officials seek to diminish it saying the garden "has always been inaccessible to the public" (despite photos of parties held there and the fact that it was purpose built as a viewing garden) and was "temporary." This "temporary" idea is an important talking point in the Frick's justification; the garden's supposed planned obsolescence is foundational to their argument. There's only one problem - the Frick created this verdant oasis as "a permanent garden" - at least that's what the museum's own February 4, 1977 press release about it states. An anonymous source recently sent me the seven page release (with a note saying "This document is on file at the Frick Art Reference Library") and directed me to the fourth paragraph on page six - there it is, plain as day: "a permanent garden."

So what's going on here? The genesis of this Edenic spot grew out of a controversial Frick expansion plan in the early 1970's. As contemporary news reports and the museum's 1977 press release note, since 1940 Frick trustees had been setting aside funds to purchase three adjacent properties on East 7...

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