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New Whitney Museum

New Whitney Museum

They say the building is “not about the architecture but the art”, but passing it the other day it was hard not to appreciate this modern beauty. If you are NYC and have some free time make sure to give it a visit. The Whitney Museum of American Art has never stayed in one place for long. It has had four different homes in its 84-year history — the latest a $422 million glass-and-steel construction that recently opened in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District — and each of those homes speaks to a particular moment in the evolution of American art and museum culture.


The new building has several terraces, part of a design that some critics say distract from the art. Nic Lehoux/Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art

The museum’s first home was established by its founder — a woman who was born into one of the country’s wealthiest families, and then married into another. Her name was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and she was a big supporter of the so-called Ashcan School and artists like George Bellows and Edward Hopper, who painted the gritty reality of life in the city. And according to Bruce Altshuler, director of the museum studies program at New York University, Whitney was also a working sculptor. “She was not just a patron,” he says, “but actually a member of an artist community.” Altshuler is standing inside the Whitney Museum’s first home, which consists of several converted row houses that today house the New York Studio School. He says Whitney moved here in the 1910s. She lived upstairs, kept a sculpture studio downstairs and started organizing shows by American artists. “She amassed a quite substantial collection of artworks which, in 1929, she offered to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a gift,” he says. “They turned it down and she decided to open her own museum.”


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