The Frick Collection in New York City has announced a promised gift of 450 portrait medals from the Stephen K. and Janie Woo Scher Collection.
The collection traces the development of the art of the medal from 15th century Italy through the 19th century and its strengths include medals from Italy, France, Germany, England and Netherlands. The collection will allow the Frick to better provide context to the art in its collection and expand on the role of portraiture across mediums.
In announcing the collection, the Frick writes, “Considered to be the world’s greatest medals collection in private hands, rivaling and often surpassing those in American museums such as the National Gallery of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it is noted for its comprehensiveness and outstanding quality.”
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It adds, “Given its sweeping scope across historical periods and the wide range of its subject matter, it will resonate with almost every work in the Frick’s permanent holdings. As such the Scher medals will enrich the experience of the museum’s viewing audience and stimulate scholarship on existing holdings in previously unanticipated ways.”
As Ian Wardropper, the Frick’s director, told the New York Times, which broke the story on April 28, “Many people don’t know what they [medals] are, so our job is to make them interested and possibly fall in love with them.”
He said that medals would eventually have a dedicated space at the museum, and that the small, intimate museum was perfect for displaying medals, since “their small size demands intimacy.”
The medals will make their public debut at the Frick in a major spring/summer exhibition opening in May 2017. The show will be accompanied by public programming and an in-depth scholarly publication that catalogs the entirety of this important collection.
The medal collection will enhance the core collection of the Frick Collection, which largely houses the works collected by Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick (1849 to 1919). The Frick is well-known as one of the finest small museums in the world, with masterpieces by a broad range of Western artists including Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, and Whistler.