Frank Lloyd Wright had a famously contentious relationship with cities and with New York in particular. New York City, however, will be the final home for much of his architectural output, thanks to a groundbreaking partnership by Columbia University’s Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library and the Museum of Modern Art to acquire his drawings, models, photographs, and office correspondence.
The massive collection includes 23,000 architectural drawings, 44,000 photographs, more than 40 large-scale models, manuscripts, and thousands of pages of correspondence. The drawings, photographs, and correspondence will be housed at Columbia, while MoMA will care for the models, architectural details, and mock-ups. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation will consult with the two institutions on development of the archive, and will retain the architect’s art collection.
Courtesy The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives/Avery/MoMA
“At MoMA, Frank Lloyd Wright’s work will be in conversation with great modern artists and architects such as Picasso, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier,” said Barry Bergdoll, the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA in a statement. “This collaboration provides opportunities to reposition Wright as a key figure in the larger development of modern art and architecture, after decades of scholarship that have often emphasized his lone genius and his unique Americanness. A new chapter in appreciating Wright is opened by this new setting for his legacy.”
Many of the models in the archive were produced for a Wright retrospective held at MoMA in 1940. Through Avery, Wright’s papers and drawings will be widely accessible to scholars, as well as available for curricular use at Columbia.
Architectural archives are famously unwieldy, and MoMA has been reticent to acquire them. The Modern owns the Mies van der Rohe archive, but typically only takes presentation drawings and high quality models into its collection. The partnership model could pave the way for more successful scholarship on and display and interpretation of the complex process of making great architecture.