The relocation of the Whitney Museum from East 75th Street to 99 Gansevoort Street in the West Village got my attention because of all the ongoing publicity. So on Friday, May 1st, the first day the general public was allowed to see the new digs, I decided to pay a visit.
The new Whitney Museum at 99 Gansevoort Street
Even though it was on the chilly side, I decided to walk from where we live at Fifth Avenue and 11th Street. I went straight across 14th Street to Washington Street (very long blocks) where I turned left and walked down a short distance before seeing the Whitney’s eye-catching terraces appearing far above all the surrounding structures.
The terraces at the Whitney Museum
The Whitney was founded in 1931 by sculptor and arts patron Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney on West Eighth Street in Greenwich Village. This new version of the Whitney, designed by Italian Pritzer Prize-winning architect, Renzo Piano, is currently described as the preeminent “skyscraper museum” in the United States.
Over the past 84 years, the Whitney has grown considerably. It now has extensive holdings of American art that number more than 22,000 works in all mediums created by 3,000 artists.
This inaugural event is titled America is Hard to See which comes from a poem by Robert Frost, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry four times. It includes more than 600 works by 400-plus artists and explores the history of art in the U.S. from the beginning of the 20th century to the present.
The exhibition is divided into 23 thematic “chapters” or galleries and each chapter takes its name not from a movement or style, but from the title of a work – in other words, works of art across all mediums are displayed together.
After you enter the Whitney and pay the entrance fee, you are directed to go to the 8th Floor, and view the exhibit floor-by-floor down to the 5th. A fast elevator goes direct to the 8th so things move speedily.
Initially, the mix of mediums was a little off-putting, but I came around to this way of thinking and viewing within minutes. On the 8th Floor a Georgia O’Keeffe work titled Music, Pink and Blue (which is unlike anything I’ve ever seen of this artist) appears with the photography of Margaret Bourke-White and Edward Steichen. There’s also a work by the poet E.E. Cummings. He painted? I had no idea.
Music, Pink and Blue by Georgia O’Keeffe
I was also rather amazed at the number of artists I didn’t recognize or had never heard of – that was a revelation. On the 7th Floor, there’s a stunning piece by Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko and a captivating Edward Hopper work titled Early Sunday Morning (no people, a barber pole dominates). The entire exhibit goes on until September 27th.
In the New York Observer, 5/4/15, cultural critic Walter Robinson noted that, “Even the New Hoover Convertibles by Jeff Koons, which a few months ago seemed so emblematic of our ubiquitous consumer utopia, now looks like just so much secondhand crap.” Ouch, that’s a bit harsh.
And in the Financial Times, 5/2-3/15, Ariella Budick wrote, “The old Whitney Museum haunts the new…the shiny replacement is as ugly as its predecessor.” Wow, I hope the architect has a thick skin.
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