Silver Lining in Corcoran Gallery Merger: Free Admission

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The Corcoran Gallery of Art. Photo: via Wikimedia Commons.

Many are mourning the dissolution of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (and its College of Art and Design) following a merger with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University, but, as pointed out by the Washington Post, the merger affords visitors to the museum one major bonus: as part of the National Gallery, the Corcoran will henceforth offer free admission.

As reported by artnet News last week (see “Judge Approves Dissolution of Corcoran Gallery“), the District of Columbia’s Superior Court approved the Corcoran’s request to alter its charter to allow the proposed merger. An opposition group, Save the Corcoran, had contested the plan to save the financially embattled institution on the grounds that the institution’s administration had not done enough to explore possible alternatives that would allow the museum to remain an independent entity.

Prior to the merger’s taking effect, the Corcoran charged a $10 ticket fee, which understandably deterred visitors in a city where so many museums, subsidized by the the government, have a free admission policy. The existing Corcoran exhibition space will remain open in its current state until October 1, offering museum-goers the chance to visit the institution in its intended form gratis for just over a month.

Though the merger does violate much of founder William W.  Corcoran’s vision for the institution, he had originally specified that the gallery should be free at least two days a week. In this change, at least, the new Corcoran will be more in line with his wishes than the old, which relied heavily on ticket sales as a source of funds.

The next step of the merger involves implementing much-needed renovations to the Corcoran building, while much of its collection will be dispersed to the National Gallery and to other museums in the region. When it reopens, the new Corcoran will feature a Legacy Gallery with highlights from the old collection, as well as temporary modern and contemporary exhibitions.


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