The New Whitney Museum of American Art – Part One

whitney press pass      photo-21
By Debbie Wells

When Franklin Hill Perrell and I began our on-line publication, Artful Observer, in January 2015, we thought it would be the perfect vehicle to showcase the artists, art galleries and museums that caught the attention of our groups during our Artful Circle strolls. Our goal is to provide insightful articles based on our years of experience in the art world combined with our unique “behind the scenes” viewpoint. First, we addressed many of the questions that arose during our sessions by writing in-depth entries, such as outlining the family tree and love interests of Pablo Picasso that were integral with the Picasso exhibits on view at several art galleries last season. We have reviewed some of the blockbuster museum exhibitions, including the Matisse Cut-Outs at the Museum of Modern Art and Richard Estes show at the Museum of Arts & Design. We will also continue to take you along via Artful Observer to places of interest like the Armory Show on the piers of NYC, Central Park, Salmagundi Club in Greenwich Village and artist studios in New York City, Long Island and beyond.

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Press Preview: Reporters and photographers walked throughout the building.

After 84 years on the Upper East Side, the Whitney has much to celebrate as they open at 99 Ganesvoort Street in the Meatpacking District between the High Line and the Hudson River. This ideal location situates them among the art galleries of Chelsea right in the center one of the trendiest neighborhoods of the city. Designed by Renzo Piano, the building is 9 stories high with a strong and strikingly asymmetric design that both fits in with the landscape of the meatpacking area, while boasting a contemporary and sculptural presence. The building is made of concrete, steel, stone, reclaimed plank pine floors and glass, yet is welcoming. One of the best features of the building is its outdoor galleries and terrace (13,000 square feet throughout the building) where there are numerous public seating areas as well as unique spots for displaying art. The views from these outdoor areas are spectacular with a “wow” factor from every vantage point.

IMG_0074   IMG_0051  Views inside and out!

The interiors also have innovative designs, such as a lattice-like grid ceiling for flexible hanging to funky elevators and authentic factory wooden plank floors. Contrary to traditional museum philosophy where the norm is corporate, stark-white contemporary or institutional, the Whitney is encouraging creativity and inviting artists to have fun.

I received an invitation to attend the Press Preview for the Inaugural Exhibition on April 23rd. The museum is open to the public on May 1st). The invitation stated the itinerary for the day: free rein of the entire museum, interview and photo opportunities with the curatorial and architectural leaders, followed by guided tours of the exhibit, America is Hard to See. This exhibit was comprised of all works from the museum’s permanent collection, yet curated with great care to highlight the different periods of American art in a fresh way. Museum officials hope to triple annual attendance from its 350,000 from its former home.

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Scenes of America Is Hard To See exhibit

I arrived early to be able to make the most of the experience – armed with paper and pen, cell phone and camera – and ready to document everything for Artful Observer. I signed in, got my press pass and proceeded to the top floor as instructed. There, I freely walked around enjoying the space, the art and the activity of reporters doing interviews and camera crews setting up their equipment everywhere I turned.

My next article will describe my tour throughout the museum – floor by floor, and comments from key curators and architects involved in this new era for the Whitney.

Cover Photo: Courtesy of Whitney Museum of American Art
Photos by Debbie Wells of Artful Circle

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