The Whitney Moves Downtown
by Stacey Goergen
Rendering of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s new building, as seen from the High Line
|Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art|
|Sketch of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s new building, projected for completion in 2015|
Amid celebrated art and New York City’s elite, the Whitney Museum of American Art held its groundbreaking on May 24 at its new downtown location on Gansevoort Street. “Today, we begin to create the Whitney of the future,” says museum director Adam D. Weinberg, “an aspirational space where contemporary artists can realize their vision and audiences can connect deeply with art.”
Scheduled to open in 2015, the new building will provide the Whitney with an additional 18,000 square feet of indoor galleries, for a total of 50,000 square feet of gallery space. The new Renzo Pianodesigned building will also have 13,000 square feet of outdoor space facing the High Line for installations, performances and events. With a project budget of $720 million, the new building will have state-of-the-art galleries, educational facilities and performance capabilities. Added Mayor Michael Bloomberg, “The new Whitney Museum will be New York City’s newest world-class cultural destination in one of the city’s most dynamic and distinctive locations.”
Moving Up, Downtown
Leaving the iconic Marcel Breuer-designed building on Madison Avenue allows the Whitney to showcase its large permanent collection over two floors, build the largest column-free gallery in the City (for temporary exhibitions) and create a dedicated floor for projects by contemporary artists. When the Whitney built the Breuer building in 1966, its collection totaled 2,000 works; today it has more than 19,000. The move also gets the Whitney back to its roots; Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney founded the Whitney Studio Club, the predecessor to the museum, several blocks away from the new location in 1914 as a venue to show innovative contemporary art and support artists. Continuing her legacy, the new location positions the Whitney to realize its mission to be “the artist’s museum,” where contemporary artists are continually creating and exhibiting new work.
The neighborhood played an important role in the Whitney’s decision. “One of the great advantages of our downtown building site is our proximity to the High Line,” says Weinberg. “Being positioned just at the southern entrance to the High Line, the Whitney’s new building will be the cultural anchor for one of New York’s most vibrant neighborhoods.” He also expects to collaborate with the High Line, adding, “What the High Line has accomplished downtown is extraordinary.”
Thanks to the High Line’s vibrant art program, as well as the extensive network of nearby galleries, the Meatpacking District and Chelsea are increasingly becoming the city’s center for both commercial and public art. The Whitney’s move downtown could cement this distinction.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF RENZO PIANO BUILDING WORKSHOP IN COLLABORATION WITH COOPER, ROBERTSON & PARTNERS (RENDERING, DRAWING); DAWOUD BEY (WEINBERG)
Cover shoot: May/June 2014 issue of Gotham magazine.