The Frick Collection—housed in a luxuriant old mansion at East 70th and 5th Avenue—opened as a museum 78 years ago today. It remains one of the most gorgeous spaces in Manhattan, with plenty of silence and secrets to warrant return visits and ongoing fascination. It is a "happy place," if you will, where a New Yorker can retreat for some solitude and Serenity Now and all that, while sitting amongst Renoirs and Rembrandts... so let's celebrate it. Here are a few of the things worth celebrating, knowing, and basking in at the museum.
THE BOWLING ALLEY
The Frick has a century-old bowling alley in the basement, which you'll likely never see with your own eyes since it's not a public room, but just knowing it's there is enough. We were lucky enough to visit it back in 2011, and even toss a few balls down the lanes, which are finely crafted from pine and maple. According to an old New York Times piece "the alley cost its owner, the steel tycoon Henry Clay Frick, $850. In a letter to Mr. Frick from Lee R. Johns, manager of Brunswick’s bowling department, it was flatly stated that the alley he had purchased was the finest 'known to the alley builder’s art' and that the balls—an additional $100—'are absolutely perfect and remain that way for years.'" The balls, which had just two holes for fingers and were significantly heavier than today's standard balls, were eventually replaced, though after Frick's death in 1919.
For a time, this alley (built in 1914) was used by Henry Clay Frick's daughter, Helen, to catalogue her father's collection when there wasn't any other space for it.
THE GOLDFINCH AND THE GIRL
While not in the permanent collection, the Frick is currently exhibiting two crowd-drawing paintings: Carel Fabritius "The Goldfinch," and Johannes Vermeer's "Girl With A Pearl Earring." According to WNYC, "Record crowds are flocking to the Frick Collection to see a small painting of a bird created almost 400 years ago. That's because 'The Goldfinch,' painted by Dutch artist Carel Fabritius in 1654, inspired Donna Tartt's new novel of the same name. According to the museum, a record 61,000 visitors have come to see the Dutch painting exhibit in which it is featured." "The Goldfinch," along with the "Girl With A Pearl Earring," are on display through January 19th, along with 13 other paintings on loan from the Mauritshuis.
Note: the museum does have its own three Vermeers as part of their permanent collection, in fact, we were told today that the last painting Frick ever purchased was Vermeer’s "Mistress and Maid" (pictured).
The aforementioned exhibit of old Dutch Masters is currently getting a lot of buzz, but if you go for the Vermeers and the Rembrants (and you should) be sure to save time to appreciate the clocks. Yes, the clocks. There's currently a whole wing devoted to incredibly old timepieces dating as far back as the 16th century. It's a tightly-curated selection—just 38 timepieces—but this little wing of the museum is completely enclosed in glass, and if you wander in as the setting sun fills the space with mellifluous light, the experience is even more mesmerizing. Some of these clocks are absolute masterpieces, like André-Charles Boulle's 17th century Barometer Clock, to name just one. The exhibit continues through February 2nd, so make time for these aesthetic and mechanical marvels, many of which are still ticking! You'll never look at your Casio the same way again. — John Del Signore
THE GARDEN COURT
The Garden Court—you know, the fountain room—at The Frick may be the most photographed space in the museum, but that feature (with its sunken pool) wasn't there when Frick was alive... before he died it was an outdoor driveway (which did contain a smaller water feature). But YOU can see it, and you should—it is nice to just sit and let the sounds of trickling water wash over you as you conclude your walk through the East Gallery. There's a skylight, plenty of greenery, and more serenity than you'll feel comfortable with.
A NOTE ON COATS
Be prepared to leave your coat on. They do not want you taking that coat off in the galleries, no sir! Security will be ON YOU if you even reach for that zipper. There is a coat check by the entrance, but if you decide to skip it out of a crippling fear of lines, be advised that you won't be allowed to take that coat off.
The Frick is located at 1 East 70th Street, and they offer a pay-what-you-wish on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Otherwise, it's $20 (adults), $15 (seniors), $10 (students), and members are free. Children under 10 are not permitted... and that's probably for the best.