The New Whitney
A new visible landmark in the skyline of downtown Manhattan.
By Kirsten Kiser
Renzo Piano’s strong, asymmetrical design responds to the industrial character of the neighboring loft buildings and overhead railway while asserting a contemporary, sculptural presence.
The new Whitney, clad in pale blue-grey enamel steel panels, is situated at the southern entrance to the elevated High Line park. With panoramic views of the Hudson River to the west and the city skyline to the east, the new museum is designed to engage a lively and diverse international, national, and local audience.
The cantilevered entrance shelters “the Largo,” a public plaza that has been carved out of the first floor at street level. Window walls create a sense of openness between it and the lobby, which includes a gallery for the permanent collection and special exhibitions as well as a spacious area for installations. Continuing the notion of community space the lobby is open to the public free of charge.
The expansive fifth floor temporary exhibitions gallery, the largest column free museum gallery in New York City, is designed to give artists and curators great freedom.
All gallery floors are made of reclaimed Heart pine from former area factories. Lattice-like grid gallery ceilings makes it easy to suspend work.
Outdoor galleries, situated on three levels of the building’s rooftops (floors 5, 6, and 7), offer dynamic exterior exhibition spaces.
In addition to over 50,000 square feet of gallery space the nine story building includes a 170 seat multi-use theater, a black box theater for film, video, and performance with an adjacent outdoor gallery, and a Works on Paper Study Center, Conservation Lab, and Library Reading Room. The building also features a restaurant on the ground floor and a café for Museum visitors on the skylit eighth floor.
Conceived as a laboratory for artists the new building approximately doubled the Whitney’s exhibition space, providing unprecedented space for the museum’s exhibitions and programs, and contributing to the Energy of a vibrant downtown neighborhood.
The Whitney’s inaugural exhibition America is Hard to See presents fresh narratives of American Art, featuring work by 400 artists filling every indoor and outdoor exhibition space. Drawn from the Whitney’s holdings, America is Hard to See examines the themes, ideas, beliefs, visions, and passions that have preoccupied and galvanized American artists over the past one hundred and fifteen years.
The only commissioned work of art in the building is the interiors of four elevators by the late Richard Artschwager. Six in Four, door, window, table, basket, mirror, and rug, is the last major artwork Artschwager created before his death in February 2013. Each elevator is designed as an immersive installation featuring one or more of these themes.
The Whitney and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art have confirmed a collaborative agreement under which the Met will present public exhibitions in the Whitney’s Marcel Breuer designed building on Madison Avenue for a period of eight years after the Whitney’s new building opens.