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A Jewel Box for Translucent Treasures

A Jewel Box for Translucent Treasures

Michael Bodycomb/The Frick Collection
White Gold: Highlights From the Arnhold Collection of Meissen Porcelain is the inaugural exhibition in the Frick Collection's newly enclosed Portico Gallery.
By KEN JOHNSON Published: December 15, 2011
In light of the glass-box atrium plugged into the J. P. Morgan Library & Museum a few years ago, New York cultural custodians might have been understandably alarmed to learn of plans for architectural intervention at another great institution of Gilded Age ancestry. They need not have worried. The Frick Collection’s transformation of an outdoor colonnade into an indoor exhibition space, now called the Portico Gallery, is as subtly noninvasive as the Morgan’s addition is conspicuously anachronistic. This is admittedly an unfair comparison: the Frick’s new gallery is not a central thoroughfare but a lateral cul-de-sac that will be used for rotating displays of decorative arts and sculpture. From the outside the only visible change to the portico, which faces south over the Fifth Avenue Garden, are floor-to-ceiling windows, minimally framed in bronze, inserted between the columns. Though just 815 square feet, the space feels much more expansive and airy than it really is. French doors closing in the small rotunda at the end of the portico look as if they had always been there, and so does a life-size statue of a nude Diana, frozen in midstride on one foot, beautifully modeled in terra cotta between 1776 and 1795 by the French neo-Classical sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. She has recently been cleaned and is back on view after a three-year absence. Elevated on a waist-high pedestal, she seems to gaze over the traffic on Fifth Avenue with divine disregard for mere human reality. All this was designed and carried out by the architecture firm Davis Brody Bond. Read more

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