The last time Ruth & I were in The Whitney Museum in New York City it was in what appeared to be a cramped, upside down building at Madison Avenue and 75th Street. It was 2010. In 2015 a new Whitney, it’s 4th location since its founding in 1931, opened in the Meatpacking District. One of the reasons why we returned to New York City in 2017 was to see it. The Whitney is unique in that it is devoted to American art. It had outgrown its East Side location because its collection was up to more than 21,000 works.
The new Whitney is between the Hudson River and High Line Park. It was designed by Renzo Piano, whose works like the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris have been controversial. I like London’s The Shard, but its top level condos proved hard to sell. His Whitney design is not beautiful in the traditional sense but it’s a winner as expansive museum space.
The Meatpacking District is undergoing a Renaissance. It has design stores, fine restaurants, great buzz, etc. The Whitney with its contemporary look, outdoor decks, and supersized indoor spaces fits right in. NYC’s original City Guide calls it “The most cutting-edge of the major art museums in New York”, a city with more than 1,000 museums, and adds that the building itself is worth the trip. This is correct if you like white walls and austere rooms.
The building uses floors 1, 3, 5, and 8 for temporary exhibitions. Floors 6 & 7 are devoted to The Whitney’s own collection but there will be, I was told, frequent changes. At first, for example, the curators had not put up many of the Edward Hoppers The Whitney is especially known for, and they had to bring some out of storage to satisfy visitor complaints. I liked the way they mixed photography with more labor-intensive works, giving this art form some well-deserved, equal credibility. Ruth liked the Studio Cafe on the top floor. We both liked the step-outside-for-grand-views decks on the upper floors. The best temporary exhibit we saw was devoted to Alexander Calder mobiles. It has closed. A couple of times each day a staff member used a stick to make some of them move. Mobiles are meant to move but they seldom do in museum displays.
Plan ahead. Unlike other museums that traditionally close on Mondays, the Whitney’s day off is Tuesday.