Guggenheim Director Rents 'Modest' NY Digs


Richard ArmstrongI've always wondered what it's like to work in a museum and be surrounded all day by beautiful art and objects and then go home to something perhaps less inspiring.

Depends, I guess, on where you live and where you are on the museum totem pole. While curators earn on average between $40,000 and $60,000 annually, many museum directors at prestigious institutions in big cities rake in much more. (Museum of Modern Art Director Glenn Lowry earned an estimated $1.3 million last year including benefits and bonuses -- and that's down from $1.9 million the year before.)

So it was fascinating to see the Wall Street Journal's look inside the somewhat modest space being rented by Richard Armstrong, who took over a year ago as director of the Guggenheim museum and foundation. Not surprisingly, Armstrong had to downsize -- not in square footage but to something "less distinguished" than he had before, according to the Journal (well, he did move from Pittsburgh, where he was director of the Carnegie Museum of Art, and where the real estate market isn't as nutty).

What is the transplanted-to-New York museum director getting for his $8,800 per month on the Upper East Side? A two-bedroom three-bath, 2,300-square foot apartment on the eighth floor of "a small brick building with no doorman and a small, creaky elevator," the Journal reports. But on a more positive note, there's no commute because the museum is just a few blocks away and it's big enough to host the many parties and events that are part of the director's job.

But compare that to Armstrong's 1,000-square-foot modern glass box in Pittsburgh designed by architect Dahlen Ritchey. Ritchey was a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright and worked on Fallingwater, one of Wright's most famous houses. (Coincidentally, the Guggenheim, celebrating it's 50th anniversary this year, was designed by Wright.) Armstrong sold his Pittsburgh home (but he didn't say for how much) before coming to New York, and admits it has been a tough change adapting to the new situation.

The apartment is simple and sparely furnished with neutral-colored walls and antique wood desks and tables (see the WSJ slideshow). And it holds only a small fraction of his personal art collection, including works by Al Held and Kiki Smith. Interior designer Lisa Frazar, who mentioned that Armstrong realized how fortunate he is to have the space he does after visiting other New Yorker's apartments, was called in to pick out curtain fabric and a green striped Odegard rug.

Sounds like a nice but expensive set up for a guy in the higher echelons of the art world, and with Guggenheim satellites in Venice, Spain, Berlin and Abu Dhabi under his command, Armstrong is likely to enjoy his all-too-few moments there.
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