When The Whitney Museum of American Art‘s new Renzo Piano-designed home on Gansevoort Street (99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014 (212) 570-3600) opens its doors on May 1, 2015, the inaugural installation will be the largest display to date of the Whitney’s permanent collection. The inaugural exhibition, America is Hard to See, presents a distinctly Whitney narrative drawn entirely from the Museum’s unparalleled permanent collection of 20th- and 21st-century American art. This ambitious display will offer new perspectives on art in the United States since 1900, following the Whitney’s in-depth analysis of its collection of more than 20,000 works, an initiative that has been underway since 2012. The opening presentation will fill over 60,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibition space, utilizing all galleries in the building, and it will celebrate the Whitney’s extraordinary new home and the richness of American art. The sweep of the collection is echoed in the building’s magnificent multiple perspectives: the new Whitney looks south toward the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, east into the city, and west across the Hudson toward the expanse of the country.
Following this distinctly Whitney narrative will be an array of exhibitions devoted to the work of Archibald Motley, Frank Stella, Laura Poitras, and David Wojnarowicz, as well as a show of hundreds of works gifted to the Whitney and the Centre Pompidou in Paris by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner.
“The Whitney has been steadily building a remarkable world-class collection of American art since our founding by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1930, much of which has remained largely unseen,” said Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director. “This transformative moment—the opening of our beautiful new home downtown—calls for a fresh look at ourselves and is the perfect occasion for us to celebrate our collection, the essence of who we are.”
Led by Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs, a team of Whitney curators, including Carter Foster, Dana Miller, and Scott Rothkopf, has conducted an unprecedented study of the collection in consultation and debate with other members of the curatorial department as well as artists, curators, and scholars from a variety of fields. Throughout this process, the team has rediscovered forgotten works and figures that will be shown alongside the Museum’s iconic treasures in order to provide a challenging and revealing take on more than a century of art in the United States. This narrative will be propelled by a dynamic sense of invention and even conflict, as artists struggled to work within and against established conventions and often directly engaged their political and social contexts. Works of art across all mediums will be displayed together, acknowledging the important ways in which modern and contemporary artists have engaged various modes of production and broken the boundaries among them.
Miss De Salvo noted, “The new building is a game changer for the Whitney and, we hope, New York’s cultural landscape. Our program—a mix of exhibitions, screenings, performances, and permanent collection presentations—will demonstrate that while the Whitney remains committed to embracing the art of the present, it can now do so against the backdrop of over a hundred years of history. Our aim is to present history and artistic production as an open, rather than closed chapter.”
On the occasion of the opening of the new building, the Museum will publish an expanded handbook of the collection, its first since 2002, featuring 350 artists. A companion volume will explore the Whitney’s core philosophy through essays discussing the Museum’s history and the ongoing reinvention of its display strategies and changing definitions of American art in a global context. Following is a list of selected exhibitions that will be presented during the Museum’s first year downtown.
ARCHIBALD MOTLEY: JAZZ AGE MODERNIST
OCT 2, 2015–JAN 17, 2016
Archibald Motley (1891—1981) was one of the most important figures associated with the Harlem Renaissance and is best known as both a master colorist and a radical interpreter of urban culture. Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist is the first full-scale survey of his paintings in two decades. The exhibition will offer an unprecedented opportunity to carefully examine Motley’s dynamic depictions of modern life in his home town, Chicago, as well as in Jazz Age Paris and Mexico. Specifically, it will highlight his unique use of both expressionism and social realism and will resituate this underexposed artist within a broader, art historical context. The exhibition will be presented in the sky-lit eighth floor galleries of the new Whitney during its inaugural year.
Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist is organized by the Nasher Museum at Duke University and curated by Professor Richard J. Powell. The installation at the Whitney Museum will be overseen by Carter E. Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing.
FRANK STELLA – OCT 30, 2015–FEB 7, 2016
The Museum will present a career retrospective of Frank Stella (b. 1936), one of the most important living American artists. This survey will be the most comprehensive presentation of Stella’s career to date, showcasing his prolific output from the mid-1950s to the present through approximately 120 works, including paintings, reliefs, maquettes, sculptures, and drawings. Co-organized by the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Whitney, this exhibition will feature Stella’s best-known works alongside rarely seen examples drawn from collections around the world. Accompanied by a scholarly publication, the exhibition will fill the Whitney’s entire fifth floor, an 18,000-square-foot gallery that is the Museum’s largest space for temporary exhibitions.
This exhibition is curated by Michael Auping, Chief Curator, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, with the involvement of Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director, Whitney Museum of American Art.
THE WESTREICH/WAGNER COLLECTION
NOV 20, 2015–MAR 6, 2016
Co-organized by the Whitney and the Centre Pompidou and composed of selections from the noted collection of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner, this exhibition celebrates American and international work from the 1960s to the present day. Featuring renowned pieces by, among many others, Diane Arbus, Robert Gober, Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, and Christopher Wool, the exhibition will also include recent work by artists such as Liz Deschenes, Sam Lewitt, Laura Owens, and Frances Stark. Of the 800 works included in the gift from Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner, 500 will enter the Whitney’s permanent collection, and approximately 300 will become part of the collection of the Centre Pompidou.
This exhibition is curated by Elisabeth Sussman, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Christine Macel, Chief Curator, Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris. The exhibition travels to the Centre Pompidou after debuting at the Whitney during the inaugural year in its new building.
LAURA POITRAS – FEB 5–MAY 15, 2016
Artist, filmmaker, and journalist Laura Poitras will create an installation of immersive environments using materials, footage, and information that build on themes she has been exploring in her filmmaking, including NSA surveillance and post-9/11 America. This exhibition continues the Museum’s involvement with Poitras, whose work was included in the 2012 Whitney Biennial. It will extend beyond the discrete gallery space through extensive programming that will occur concurrently at the Whitney and in close collaboration with the artist. Poitras’s reporting on NSA surveillance was recently awarded a Pulitzer Prize. This exhibition is organized by Jay Sanders, Curator and Curator of Performance.
DAVID WOJNAROWICZ – FALL 2016/WINTER 2017
This exhibition, a must see event, presented during the new Whitney’s inaugural year, will be the first major, monographic presentation of the work of David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992) in over a decade. Wojnarowicz came to prominence in the East Village art world of the 1980s, actively embracing all media and forging an expansive range of work both fiercely political and highly personal. Although largely self-taught, he worked as an artist and writer to meld a sophisticated combination of found and discarded materials with an uncanny understanding of literary influences. First displayed in raw storefront galleries, his work achieved national prominence at the same moment that the AIDS epidemic was cutting down a generation of artists, himself included. This presentation will draw upon recently-available scholarly resources and the Whitney’s extensive holdings of Wojnarowicz’s work. This exhibition is co-curated by David Kiehl, Nancy and Fred Poses Curator, and art historian David Breslin.
The Whitney Museum of American Art is the world’s leading museum of twentieth-century and contemporary art of the United States. Focusing particularly on works by living artists, the Whitney is celebrated for presenting important exhibitions and for its renowned collection, which comprises over 20,000 works by more than 3,000 artists. With a history of exhibiting the most promising and influential artists and provoking intense debate, the Whitney Biennial, the Museum’s signature exhibition, has become the most important survey of the state of contemporary art in the United States. In addition to its landmark exhibitions, the Museum is known internationally for events and educational programs of exceptional significance and as a center for research, scholarship, and conservation.
Founded by sculptor and arts patron Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1930, the Whitney was first housed on West 8th Street in Greenwich Village. The Museum relocated in 1954 to West 54th Street and, in 1966, inaugurated its present home, designed by Marcel Breuer, at 945 Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side. While its vibrant program of exhibitions and events continues uptown, the Whitney is constructing a new building, designed by Renzo Piano, in downtown Manhattan. Located at the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets in the Meatpacking District, at the southern entrance to the High Line, the new building, which has generated immense momentum and support, will enable the Whitney to vastly increase the size and scope of its exhibition and programming space. Ground was broken on the new building in May 2011, and it is projected to open to the public in spring 2015.
Renzo Piano’s design takes a strong and strikingly asymmetrical form—one that responds to the industrial character of the neighboring loft buildings and overhead railway while asserting a contemporary, sculptural presence. The dramatically cantilevered entrance to the Museum along Gansevoort Street shelters an outdoor plaza or “largo,” a public gathering space steps away from the southern entrance to the High Line. The upper stories of the building stretch toward the Hudson River on the west side and step back gracefully from the elevated park of the High Line on the east side. Renzo Piano Building Workshop is designing the building in collaboration with New York-based architects Cooper, Robertson & Partners.
The 220,000 square-foot building, comprised of glass, steel, and concrete, includes approximately 50,000 square feet of indoor gallery space and 13,000 square feet of outdoor galleries and terraces; an Education Center offering dedicated space for state-of-the-art classrooms; a multi-use black box gallery for film, video, and performance with an adjacent outdoor gallery; a 170-seat theater with double-height views of the Hudson River; and a Works on Paper Study Center, large art Conservation Lab, and Library Reading Room. The classrooms, theater, and study center are all firsts for the Whitney