After six months of controversy, the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s trustees have decided to keep the city’s oldest art museum in its beloved home near the White House.
The Washington arts community exploded in anger in early June, when Corcoran officials announced they were considering selling the Corcoran’s historic Beaux Arts building and moving to the suburbs. Although Corcoran officials presented the potential sale as a possible solution to its long-running financial troubles—the Corcoran posted a $7 million deficit in 2011 and expects at least a $7 million shortfall this year—many employees, students, and supporters found the idea appalling.
“You might as well move the White House to Arizona,” former Corcoran director Roy Slade told The Washingtonian in a feature story on the controversy that was published in the December issue.
On Monday, however, the Corcoran pledged to keep the museum in Washington, the city where it was founded in 1869.
“After reviewing the status of all relevant research at their December 5, 2012 meeting, the Trustees resolved that they will now focus only on approaches that keep the museum in the building,” reads a Corcoran press release. “The Trustees are pursuing several possibilities consistent with this decision and expect to select a preferred option within the next three months.”
So what changed between June and early December?
“What has happened between then and now is that the process of publicly exploring this idea has generated not only noise and indigestion, it has also generated an inflow of opportunities and information,” Corcoran chairman Harry Hopper told the Washington Post. “We’re comfortable that there are enough paths to stay in the building. . . . We just were not in that position, we didn’t have this data in front of us, when we started the process.”
Nevertheless, don’t underestimate the influence of the passionate opposition to the sale, which has turned the bulk of the Corcoran’s staff against its leaders.