The Whitney Museum of American Art was founded in 1930 by Gertrude Whitney, a sculptor and art collector, when her donation of over 500 artworks was rejected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was more interested in European modernism. Whitney, a wealthy socialite and art patron, supported American artists like Edward Hopper, Charles Demuth, and painters in the Ashcan School, which portrayed life in New York City’s impoverished communities.
In 1831 the Whitney opened at 8-12 West 8th Street, a well-traveled retail corridor in East Village. Over the next three decades the collection outgrew the space it was housed in, and the museum moved to the Upper East Side into a modern granite building whose façade resembles an upside-down staircase. After unsuccessful attempts to plan an expansion it was renovated between 1995 and 1998, but eventually it was decided that a new building was necessary, and the current museum was completed in 2015 in the Meatpacking District.
The present Whitney Museum sits on the southern entrance to the High Line and consists of 200,000 square feet of space. Visitors can enjoy the many galleries and exhibits, or take in the view from one of many observation decks. The permanent collection houses more than 3,500 artists work, with over 25,000 pieces that include photography, painting, sculpture, video, and installations. The Whitney also hosts the Whitney Biennial, a show that focuses on younger and lesser known artists.
Personally I found the artwork more compelling and accessible than modernism and much contemporary art – with the focus on Americana over the last century, there is a wistful and ephemeral feeling to much of it, particularly in the current exhibition of Edward Hopper’s exceptional work. Another exhibit that featured the work of Puerto Rican artists in response to Hurricane Maria was also particularly moving. Art galleries can have a reputation for being snobby, elitist, or incomprehensible, but the work we saw was immediate and compelling. It’s a great place to start a visit to NYC, after which you can grab lunch in the area and walk the High Line. For info on ticket prices and availability visit The Whitney’s website at https://whitney.org/
Matthew Christopher NY New York Dec 20, 2022 Arts Museums Places to Visit