At the preview of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s new building yesterday, the crowd assembled for Director Adam Weinberg’s remarks were reminded of the founder’s reasons for opening a museum that was considered rogue at the time.
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942), an artist who lived an artist’s life in Greenwich Village during the Great Depression, wanted to create a place to view and to talk about the work of living American artists who were making art during a time when there were, in fact, very few collectors of new American art.
The Whitney today continues to champion contemporary American art, with a focus on the artists themselves, as it brings innovative work to the view through exhibitions and public programs. In addition, the Whitney offers educational programs at all levels, from kids to working artists, with a stellar art conservation program that involves the makers with both the presentation and preservation of their work.
The new building designed by Renzo Piano, situated as it is adjacent to the High Line, and close to the Chelsea art district, will surely be a magnet for even larger audiences than before. The shimmering shiplike hulk of a building, with 360-degree views from indoor and outdoor galleries, has twice the floor space of the Breuer building on Madison Avenue. Filled with natural light along the perimeter, the expansive galleries are bound to attract many more people to the habit of experiencing art. At present, it is the only place in New York that can compete with art fairs for the splendor and excitement of a great scene to to become part of.
Let the arguments continue, as they are bound to. For now, have a look and mark your calendar: The Whitney Museum of American Art opens to the public on Friday, May 1.
The Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, NY, NY. Information. Photos: Peggy Roalf.