Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Wednesday news and notes

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Given the Washington Post’s dwindling commitment to covering visual art, I was delighted to see it run a newsy art-plus-politics feature, in this case about Rep. John Mica. He’s the Florida Republican whose legislative pursuit of a third building for the National Gallery of Art was first reported here on MAN in 2007. However, Ned Martel’s story promises a little more than Mica does: “For the National Gallery, Mica’s quest would land it an additional 300,000 square feet of space, taking it from two buildings to three. At that scale, the museum would approach the grandeur and services of its counterparts in New York, Chicago, Paris or Madrid.” [Image of the FTC’s Apex Building via Flickr user M.V. Jantzen.]

Not quite. According to the National Gallery, the proposed ‘new’ building has 187,000 square feet of NGA-usable space, not 300,000. The NGA has said that the building is needed for administrative space (according to Mica’s office, the NGA leases 60,000 square feet of office space in downtown Washington) and education-related programming. Adding gallery space is not the NGA’s expansion-priority, though there would be a small amount of new art space in Apex. The NGA will not “approach the grandeur” of the Met or the Prado by adding, well, office space.

I wrote this in 2008: Since 1978, when the East Building opened, every major American museum has grown. The Art Institute of Chicago has added or is building 400,000 square feet. The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles split itself in two, remodeling and expanding a 490,000-square-foot center for ancient art in Malibu and building a 945,000-square-foot complex in Brentwood. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has added or is in the process of building 325,000 square feet for its museum and school. Since 1970, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has roughly doubled in size, from 1 million to 2 million square feet. In that same period, the NGA collection has grown substantially, but the museum has added only 8,800 square feet of gallery space.

True: The NGA needs what the FTC’s Apex Building would provide. But because the NGA last addressed its space needs 33 years ago (a period during which all of its peers have built and built), it needs more.

For more details on Mica and the NGA’s expansion dreams, see my 2008 Washingtonian story on same.

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  1. […] Washington Post headline: “Curator Andrew Robison decides what goes into National Gallery’s emergency box.” The story, by Ned Martel, defines the box as what the NGA would save in case World War III descends upon Washington. The story also reveals that the headline is in error. Robison has such a list for only the NGA collection he oversees, namely prints, watercolors, drawings and illustrated books. And wait, Martel’s stretch gets longer: He quotes NGA chief Rusty Powell shaking his head at the entire construct, saying that the Robinson list isn’t quite as Martel and the Post portray it, that the emergency box “is not the primary way the nation’s treasures are protected.” So in other words… nevermind. In a related story, Martel is fast earning himself something of a reputation for stories about the NGA in which the facts outrun his premise. […]

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