First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama will be the special guest (and speaker) at the Dedication Ceremony and Official Ribbon-Cutting for the new downtown New York City home of the Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014) on Thursday, April 30, 2015, at 11 am. The Whitney’s new building returns the Museum to downtown Manhattan where it was founded in 1930 by artist and philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. The 220,000-square-foot building in the Meatpacking District doubles the Museum’s exhibition space, enabling the Whitney to present its innovative exhibitions and programs in the context of the world’s foremost collection of twentieth-century and contemporary American art. The building opens to the public on Friday, May 1, 2015.
A view of the building from the High Line, November 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck
A view of the High Line and the building’s eastern face, December 2014. Photograph by Ed Lederman
The new building viewed from across the Hudson River, October 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck
Other distinguished guests and speakers will include Bill de Blasio, Mayor of the City of New York; Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director, Whitney Museum of American Art; Renzo Piano, architect; Chairman and Founding Partner, Renzo Piano Building Workshop; Robert J. Hurst, Co-Chairman, Whitney Board of Trustees; Brooke Garber Neidich, Co-Chairman, Whitney Board of Trustees; Neil G. Bluhm, President, Whitney Board of Trustees and Flora Miller Biddle, Honorary Chairman, Whitney Board of Trustees, and granddaughter of Museum founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Other participants will include Matana Roberts, composer and alto saxophonist, performing a commissioned musical work, Incantation, The Wooster Group, renowned experimental theater company, performing the ribbon-cutting, and teens from the Whitney’s Youth Insights Program. Admittance to the ceremony is by invitation only but a live webcast will be available to the public at whitney.org/Dedication.
The Meatpacking District is a twenty-square-block neighborhood on the far West Side of Manhattan. Surrounding the meatpacking plants just north of Gansevoort Street are some of New York’s most notable restaurants, bars, fashion boutiques, clubs, and hotels. The neighborhood is bordered to the north and east by Chelsea, renowned for its art galleries, cultural organizations, and educational institutions. To the south is the West Village and its nineteenth-century townhouses, charming streets, and unique shops. To the west is the Hudson River. (Photography by Timothy Schenck)
Situated between the High Line and the Hudson River in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, the new building will vastly increase the Whitney’s exhibition and programming space, offering the most expansive display ever of its unsurpassed collection of modern and contemporary American art.
Whitney Museum of American Art. Photograph by Ed Lederman
The High Line is New York City’s newest and most unique public park. Located thirty feet above street level on a 1930s freight railway, the High Line runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street in Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen. It features an integrated landscape combining meandering concrete pathways with naturalistic plantings.
The fifth floor gallery’s east-facing window, seen from below, October 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck
The new building in the evening, October 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck
Workers constructing the exterior stairs, December 2014. Photograph by Timothy Schenck
Upclose exterior view of the (new) Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking District. Photograph by Ed Lederman
Whitney Museum of American Art. Photograph © Nic Lehoux
Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the new building will include approximately 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space and terraces facing the High Line. An expansive gallery for special exhibitions will be approximately 18,000 square feet in area, making it the largest column-free museum gallery in New York City. Additional exhibition space includes a lobby gallery (accessible free of charge), two floors for the permanent collection, and a special exhibitions gallery on the top floor.
According to Mr. Piano, “The design for the new museum emerges equally from a close study of the Whitney’s needs and from a response to this remarkable site. We wanted to draw on its vitality and at the same time enhance its rich character. The first big gesture, then, is the cantilevered entrance, which transforms the area outside the building into a large, sheltered public space. At this gathering place beneath the High Line, visitors will see through the building entrance and the large windows on the west side to the Hudson River beyond. Here, all at once, you have the water, the park, the powerful industrial structures and the exciting mix of people, brought together and focused by this new building and the experience of art.”
The dramatically cantilevered entrance along Gansevoort Street will shelter an 8,500-square-foot outdoor plaza or “largo,” a public gathering space steps away from the southern entrance to the High Line. The building also will include an education center offering state-of-the-art classrooms; a multi-use black box theater for film, video, and performance with an adjacent outdoor gallery; a 170-seat theater with stunning views of the Hudson River; and a Works on Paper Study Center, Conservation Lab, and Library Reading Room. The classrooms, theater, and study center are all firsts for the Whitney.
A retail shop on the ground-floor level will contribute to the busy street life of the area. A ground-floor restaurant and top-floor cafe will be conceived and operated by renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group, which operated +Untitled+, the restaurant in the Whitney’s Marcel Breuer building on the Upper East Side, until programming there concluded on October 19.
Mr. 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 upper stories of the building overlook the Hudson River on its west, and step back gracefully from the elevated High Line Park to its east.
The campaign for the new Whitney goes far beyond the creation of a new museum facility that will showcase and safeguard the Museum’s irreplaceable collection. It is an investment in future generations of artists and the growing audiences who will engage with their work. Continue reading