Board of trustees Chairman Harry Hopper III said: “We have been focusing on putting the Corcoran on a long-term, sustainable path. One of the clear options for us to consider is relocating to a purpose-built, technologically advanced, flexible, multipurpose facility that could house an integrated educational operation, with the college at the core, coupled with the [museum] collection.”
The 126,000-square-foot facility, built in 1897, is so small that less than 3 percent of the collection can be displayed at any one time. Student enrollment must be capped at 600, but the Corcoran wants to expand to 850 students.
During any transition, the gallery’s collection of paintings, drawings and photographs would remain intact and the college would continue to operate. At the same time, new space could enable the Corcoran to refocus on its educational mission, which, by some measures, is more economically viable than the museum.
Bollerer and Hopper presented the options — the results of two years of internal study and about $600,000 in outside consulting fees — to the Corcoran’s board of trustees Monday afternoon. The board voted unanimously to authorize shopping the building and seeking a new location. Corcoran leadership calculates that a more flexible and affordable space will enable the institution to operate more efficiently, while stabilizing finances by attracting more benefactors. Fundraising has stalled in recent years partly because the Corcoran did not have a promising future that it could promote to potential donors, Hopper said.
“We feel that we owe it to whomever we ask for money that we can show them a plan that makes sense,” said Hopper, a venture capitalist. “We are on the verge of executing on that plan. We believe that the fundraising activities of the Corcoran will be reinvigorated around that plan.”
Hopper and Bollerer declined to say how much they expect the building to sell for. They said they will know better after a commercial real estate broker is enlisted.
No jurisdiction or neighborhood has an inside track on attracting the Corcoran, Bollerer said. A popular rumor in city art circles is that the Corcoran is headed to a waterfront location in Alexandria. That is unfounded, he said.
Among the next steps, Bollerer said, is to contact D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to inform them of the search.