It reached an agreement with the National Gallery of Art to exhibit works from the National Gallery’s East Wing during the three-year period, beginning in January, when the East Wing is closed for renovation.
The Corcoran named a new consulting director to succeed retiring director Fred Bollerer. She is Peggy Loar, who has a range of museum experience, including having been director of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Loar will serve at the Corcoran for at least several months as the partnership with Maryland is established, Hopper said.
Finally — and perhaps most vitally — the Corcoran released a “Strategic Framework for a New Corcoran,” a 10-page document (also to be posted online Wednesday evening) that is the distilled fruit of two years of methodical research and some $1.5 million in consultant fees. It is the long-awaited new road map for an institution that has been casting about for an updated vision for decades, as it lagged behind publicly funded museum rivals in Washington.
“We want this to provide . . . a context for who our next director might be, or future board members,” Knops said. “It’s predicated on the need to define how can we take this 140-year-old institution and make sure it has another 140 years ahead of it.”
The framework reaffirms certain key facets of its identity since its founding in 1869 by financier William Corcoran — the encouragement and reflection of “American genius,” and the unique-in-Washington status of being a museum-college hybrid.
But it charts a new focus on contemporary art, American art, and design. Works that don’t seem relevant to that framework could be sold, with the proceeds used to acquire works that are relevant to the focus.
The Corcoran will revive its defunct biennial show, which once was a revered taste-making event in the national art world.
The Corcoran will also establish a center for “lens-based and new media,” meaning photography and technology-based art forms. The Corcoran already has an admired photography collection, and the partnership with Maryland could lead across new frontiers in the digital arts, Corcoran officials said.
The framework also calls for the Corcoran to redouble its outreach to embrace the Washington region. And it calls for the Corcoran to make itself more “relevant” to the political and cultural dialogue that are essential characteristics of Washington’s intellectual life.
With the framework as a guide, there are early signs that the Corcoran is getting its groove back. Exhibits like “Pump Me Up” have generated buzz. And after two years of fundraising stuck at a historically low $3.2 million, the Corcoran has hired three major-gift officers and a membership director to help turn the tide.
Knops cited exhibits such as “30 Americans” and the upcoming “War/Photography” as examples in which the Corcoran has sought to “sharpen our focus on being relevant in what we exhibit and teach, and how we exhibit and teach it through the integration of art ideas and social issues.”
“Art is provocative,” Hopper said. “And we want to take the provocation and promote dialogue around it.”
Katherine Boyle contributed to this report.