The Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design announced late on Friday that it is in concurrent talks with two institutions—the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University—regarding the future of the Corcoran building, school, and museum.
The Corcoran’s board chairman, Harry F. Hopper III, and director and president, Fred Bollerer, announced the discussions to the Corcoran’s board of trustees this afternoon, shortly before the information was made public, during a regularly scheduled board meeting. The Washington Post reported the news earlier this evening.
The negotiations are separate, and do not mean the university has ruled out leaving its home on 17th Street NW. A source familiar with the negotiations said that although the discussions are preliminary at this point, the National Gallery’s interest is in the building, while George Washington is focused on the college.
Corcoran senior communications director Mimi Carter confirmed that any plans under discussion with the National Gallery and George Washington are not mutually exclusive. It is unclear whether representatives from either instutition have had any conversation with one another in their talks with the Corcoran. “The reason we’re doing this now is to provide illustrative examples of the types of conversations that we’re having right now,” Carter says.
Neither institution was in discussion with the Corcoran shortly after City Paper reported in June that the Corcoran was seeking to appraise its building for a potential sale. That month, Deborah Ziska, chief press officer of the National Gallery, told City Paper, “There have been no talks between us and we have not expressed interest in purchasing the building should it come up for sale.”
However, George Washington held discussions with the Corcoran before June, during a time when the university was seeking opportunities for expansion. Though George Washington faculty did a walk-through of the Corcoran’s building before the school had settled on a location for its museum, fine arts chair Dean Kessmann says that the talks were informal and ultimately inconclusive. George Washington is holding a groundbreaking ceremony for a new university art museum on Oct. 18 that will house its art collection as well as the Textile Museum—a partnership announced in July.
Representatives from the National Gallery and from George Washington University did not respond immediately to requests for comment. Currently, the Corcoran has no timeline going forward for negotiations with either institution. Carter declined to comment on whether the Corcoran was holding discussions with any other institutions or entities.
A statement from the Corcoran released at 5 p.m. on Friday reads that the institution is “in conversation with both the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. These activities are in keeping with the Corcoran Board’s stewardship and commitment to explore and secure potential sustainable options for the future of both the gallery and the college.”
At the same time that the Corcoran is deciding the course of its future, it is also looking to change its leadership. A search committee tasked with finding a new director for the Corcoran meets later this month, Carter says. It is not certain which decision the Corcoran will make first: Who its leader will be, or what its future will entail.
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