Whitney Museum of American Art back in business

Seven years after initial designs were unveiled to the public and six months after Jeff Koons: A Retrospective concludes its exhibition programme in the Breuer building on Madison Avenue in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art is ready to start a new chapter in its history.
As of May 1st, the institution, which was founded in 1931, will start operating from its new home in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, sandwiched between the High Line and the Hudson River. The state-of-the-art $422 million (approximately £278 million) building has been designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano.
The expansive museum is nearly double the size of Whitney’s now former base, with around 50,000 square feet of indoor exhibition space and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space. All in all, there is plenty to play with, offering curators a wonderful platform within which to host engaging shows.
“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,” Mr Piano is quoted by Whitney as saying on its website. “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.”
Whitney’s inaugural exhibition will be America is Hard to See, comprised of over 600 works from the museum’s permanent collection. Organised by a team of curators and led by its chief curator and deputy director for programmes Donna De Salvo, the show reflects on 115 years of American art (from about the start of the nineteenth century). It takes its name from a poem by the American poet Robert Frost called And All We Call American.
Speaking to Forbes, Ms De Salvo said that the experience of putting together the show had been wonderful, with the new building allowing her team to show off the collection in a manner that simply was impossible in the old institute. For artists, she continued, its an “opportunity to play this building as if it’s an instrument”.
“Renzo Piano has given us a great building,” she went on to say. “It’s about art, it’s about looking, and it’s about bringing people into dialogue with art. There are multiple visions: visions of all the curators, and visions of the people who come in – what they think about it, the vistas. It’s just the beginning.
“It’s about the art, how things live in, reverberate, occupy, or vibrate within the space. All the details of the building, the ceiling heights and the type of floor, have been carefully thought through with Renzo, to serve the needs of the art and the artists.”
America is Hard to See at the Whitney Museum of American Art runs until September 27th, 2015.
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