• 18 May 2018

The closing of the Corcoran Gallery of Art museum of Washington DC resulted in major donations to diverse institutions. Among the 10 750 Artworks donated to Washington DC institutions, 9000 of it will enter the American University Museum’s collection.

Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington

Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington © Library of Congress

Life and death of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC

Until its closing, the Corcoran Gallery of Art was one of the oldest privately owned cultural institutions in the United States. Indeed, the institution opened its doors in 1890 with the goal of being a museum and a school. William Wilson Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Gallery of Art but also of the Riggs Bank, therefore created one of the first Art galleries of the country. As a result, later on, it became the Corcoran College of Art + Design which co-existed with the gallery itself. However, it announced its closing to take place in 2014. Years of financial difficulties forced it to reach an agreement with the National Gallery of Art and the George Washington University which is located nearby. Close to 17 000 of its Artworks were place under the caretaking of the National Gallery of Art. On its hand, the historic 17th century part of the gallery and the school became the new Corcoran School of Arts and Design, a George Washington University’s program. The gallery was originally dedicated to American Art.

Washington DC’s institutions receive “one of the largest free art distributions in US history “

Out of the 20 000 Artworks of the former Corcoran Art Gallery’s collection, 10 750 were donated to 22 Washington DC institutions. According to the Washington DC Corcoran Art Gallery board it should be “one of the largest free art distributions in US history.” Among the institutions there are museums but also universities. The luckiest university is American University which got 9000 Artworks. As a result, the Artworks will be exhibited at the Katzen Arts Center. Consequently, the museum’s current collection which totals 6000 Artworks has nearly doubled. Even though the university and its Curator John Rasmussen have been aware for three years, the donation is much bigger than expected. “I’m really just beginning to learn exactly what we’re getting” explained John Rasmussen.

Katzen Arts Center at American University

Katzen Arts Center © Ivan Pinkava

The Artworks donated to American University and its reaction

Among the Artworks donated to the university there are great names of the Arts. Pablo Picasso, John Singer Sargent, Rembrandt but also Louise Neveldon are now part of the University museum’s collection. Such acquisitions were completely out of reach for the university since then which “never had the budget to go out and compete on the marketplace” explained John Rasmussen. In order to finance the Artworks transportation as well as the galleries installation the university is currently fundraising to reach a 50 000 to 100 000 dollars donation. The idea is also to invite outside curators to organize exhibitions with the new acquisitions. The possibilities are infinite. John Rasmussen was part of the Save the Corcoran Group and therefore said the Corcoran Art Gallery closing was “a terrible loss.” “We can be sad, but also thrilled.”

Jack Rasmussen at American University

Jack Rasmussen, American University © Charma Edmunds


Read our article about the unprecedented exhibition of Jean Dubuffet by gallery Hauser & Wirth here.

Sources : The Artnewspapers and American University