Prof. Elizabeth Marlowe
Masterpieces of Western Art
November 8, 1999
Formal Comparison of Two Museums
The Frick Collection and The Guggenheim Museum are both museums on 5th Avenue in New York’s Upper East Side neighborhood, and they are both named for famous American tycoons from the early 20thcentury. But their similarities pretty much end there. The Frick Collection is the former residence of steel baron Henry Clay Frick who spent forty years assembling a large collection of artwork for his personal enjoyment. The Guggenheim Museum, on the other hand, was always intended as a public museum to display various art exhibits. These fundamental differences are most evident in the architectural design of the buildings themselves: the Frick building is a calm, warm house built for a family to live in while the Guggenheim building is a cold, public hall built to accommodate hundreds of art enthusiasts at a time. The styles of the architecture are quite different, and they reflect the very different styles of artwork inside. Furthermore, the shapes and layout of the buildings lend themselves to quite different viewing experiences for the visitor. From the outside, the only things the two buildings have in common is that they both dominate an entire block of 5th Avenue and they are both white. The Frick building, designed by architect Thomas Hastings, was built from 1913-1914 in the neo-classical style prevalent in New York at the time. Classical arches, ionic columns, and outdoor gardens and fountains remind the viewer of an ancient Roman villa, much like fellow baron and art collector J.P. Getty’s museum in Malibu, CA. Elaborate decoration over the doorways and columns as well as ornamented atriums and statue niches further enhance the classic design and tranquil setting. The building is relatively horizontal, primarily one story that sprawls out much lower than the towering buildings which surround it. The Guggenheim building is just the...