Niagara Gazette

Columns

March 2, 2014

GLYNN: Famous 'Niagara' art in gallery under attack

Niagara Gazette — One of the most famous paintings  of Niagara Falls is owned by an art gallery in the nation’s capital but it’s future there may be in jeopardy.

“Niagara,” by Frederic Edwin Church (1857) is among the priceless pieces in the collection at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. In 1985, the classic painting was loaned to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, displayed as part of the centennial anniversary of the Niagara Falls State Park. That short stay at the Knox was arranged by the late Paul Schoellkopf, a longtime member of the Niagara Frontier State Park Commission and the vice chairman of that centennial committee.

At the Corcoran Gallery, however, the coveted collection now faces troubled times, based on the Washington Post article last week by Eric Gibson, the newspaper’s leisure & arts editor. He contends that no museum has ever willed itself into oblivion as the Corcoran Gallery has done with its plan to become part of George Washington University which will assume ownership and responsibility for the 1897 Beaux Arts building. Incidentally, the financially-plagued Corcoran needs an estimated $100 million for deferred maintenance and upgrades.

Gibson adds that of all the decisions by the Corcoran’s board of directors, this one (to collaborate with the university) is the worst. He predicts the partnership will be the end of the gallery. The proposed agreement calls for a new name too: “The Corcoran Contemporary, National Gallery of Art.” Under the restructuring, only a corner in the Corcoran would be reserved for a Legacy Gallery for a rotating display of the museum’s “signature works.” And anything the National Gallery didn’t want would enter a “distribution plan” to place the works in other U.S. museums.

If Church’s “Niagara” ever ended up in that degraded ranking, surely the Albright-Knox could provide a suitable home for it. What a splendid boost that would prove to the area tourist industry.  

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