Friday, May 20, 2005

Gehry's Corcoran Wing May Not Fly

The Washington Post today featured an article outlining the financial problems facing the Corcoran Gallery's plans to construct a dramatic expansion, designed by architect Frank Gehry. The museum had hoped that the high profile architect might help increase the traffic to the museum - a phenomenon known as the "Bilbao Effect" after Gehry's design for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain drew worldwide attention to the museum.

However, the fundraising efforts for the new wing have fallen short so far, and the museum has apparently been operating in the red for a number of years. Combined with some bad luck and a slumping economy that has seen a decrease in the number of wealthy stock owners who might be patrons of the gallery - the future of the expansion is now in jeopardy.

While it is disappointing to hear that the city might not get a new piece of modern architecture to spice up the somewhat drab buildings that grace the downtown and Mall area, I am more concerned to hear that the gallery is in financial problems that jeopardize its very operation. With $40 million in repairs needed for the existing building - maybe it makes more sense to preserve the Corcoran that we have first before building the Corcoran of the future.

But maybe this call to action will inspire some generous philanthropists with deep pockets to help make the Gehry wing a reality. This Washingtonian definitely hopes so.

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