News & Politics

Corcoran Gallery of Art to Stay in Its Current Building

After six months of controversy, trustees have pledged to keep the museum in Washington.

The Corcoran will stay in its current home near the White House. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Whistling in the Dark.

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
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.

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.