The financially troubled Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C., has announced a proposed collaboration with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University to safeguard its iconic collection and building.
Under the proposed terms of the agreement, George Washington would assume ownership of the Corcoran's landmark building and operate the College of Art + Design, while the National Gallery would be responsible for the Corcoran's collection of modern and contemporary art, a large part of which the National Gallery would acquire. The rest of the collection would be donated to museums around the country, the Washington Post reports, with priority given to those in the District of Columbia. The National Gallery also would maintain a Corcoran Legacy Gallery in the Corcoran's current building and would stage exhibitions of modern and contemporary art there under the name Corcoran Contemporary, National Gallery of Art. Unlike the current setup at the Corcoran, admission to the exhibitions would be free.
While GWU would pay nothing for the Corcoran's Beaux Arts building — worth an estimated $40 million to $60 million if gutted for offices — it would assume the costs of renovating the building, the Post reports. The university also would take over the College of Art + Design's building in Georgetown.
Founded in 1869 by William Wilson Corcoran, a co-founder of Riggs Bank, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design was one of the first fine arts galleries in the country and the last example of the museum-college hybrid model that was popular in the second half of the nineteenth century. Last year, the Corcoran explored the possibility of a collaboration with the University of Maryland, insisting that the gallery and college remain together. When those talks broke down, Corcoran officials revived talks with GWU and the National Gallery, neither of which had wanted to take on both entities.
"This coalition among our three institutions will open important new possibilities for Washington, D.C.," said Peggy Loar, the Corcoran's interim director and president. "The Corcoran's great cultural, educational, and civic resources that are at the heart of this city will not only remain in Washington but will become stronger, more exciting, and more widely accessible, in a way that stays centered on the Corcoran’s dedication to art and mission of encouraging American genius and opens the galleries free to all."