Corcoran Gallery mulling move from District

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer
The Corcoran Gallery of Art in the District's monument core might not be in its downtown location for long, the organization confirmed Monday.

The museum board is considering whether to sell its historic Beaux-Arts building across from the White House's Ellipse at New York Avenue and 17th Street Northwest. A move from the District would be a big loss for the city as it has been in Washington for its entire 143-year history and at its current spot since 1897.

"Just as the Corcoran moved in 1897 to accommodate its growing collection, one of the clear options now is to consider relocating to a purpose-built, technologically advanced facility that is cost-effective to maintain," said Fred Bollerer, Corcoran chief executive officer and president, and Harry Hopper, chairman of the board of trustees in a statement.

The gallery,

which is privately funded, was previously located across the street from the White House in what is now the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery. The Corcoran is Washington's oldest museum and was established in 1869 as a private art gallery to house the extensive collection of Washington banker and philanthropist William Wilson Corcoran.

The proposed sale was first reported by the Washington City Paper.

Members reportedly are considering moving the museum to the Alexandria Waterfront, which is in the midst of a planned renovation.

The storied institution has undergone budget deficits and a change of leadership in recent years. That includes hiring Bollerer, a venture capitalist with no prior experience in museum administration, as the Corcoran's director and CEO in 2009. Bollerer has since called the museum's operations "unsustainable."

The museum draws hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, who pay $10 a piece for general admission.

To raise funds, the Corcoran recently leased land adjacent to the building to Carr Properties, which is building an $80 million office building on that property. The museum also sold a building in Southwest Washington, where it once planned to relocate the Corcoran College of Art + Design.

Last year, executives hired museum consultant Lord Cultural Resources to advise the institution on its finances.

The current building was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992. The building recently underwent a massive, two-year restoration that included a replacement of its historic roof.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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