The Whitney Museum of American Art is a large museum in New York City focusing on 20th century and 21st century American art.
The founder and driving force behind the Whitney was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Although from a wealthy background, Mrs. Whitney was a sculptor and active member of the New York artistic community in the early part of the 20th century. Concerned that it was difficult for contemporary American artists to sell their works, Mrs. Whitney acted to promote the work of these artists not only by collecting their art but also by opening the Whitney Studio in New York's Greenwich Village to exhibit such works.
By 1929, Mrs. Whitney's collection had grown to over 600 works. She offered these works with an endowment to the Metropolitan Museum of Art but it declined the offer. The newly opened Museum of Modern Art seemed to have a preference for European works so Mrs. Whitney decided to open a museum focusing on the work of American artists. The Whitney Museum of American Art opened in 1931.
Mrs. Whitney's collection served as the foundation for the museum's permanent collection, which has now grown to more than 22,000 works by 3,000 artists. The primary focus of the collection remains works by living American artists. However, as time has passes, works that once were contemporary become historic. Furthermore, its definition of American art is broad and inclusive so that the Whitney exhibits works by artists from other countries who have had some connection to the United States (e.g., artists who spent part of their career in America).
The Whitney has had several homes since its founding. In 1951, it moved from Greenwich Village to an expanded site on West 54th Street adjacent to the Museum of Modern Art. Then in 1963, it acquired a Modernistic building on Madison Avenue designed by Marcel Breuer. After various plans to enlarge the Breuer building came to naught, the Whitney moved to its present building in the trendy Meatpacking District in 2015. (The Breuer building was leased to the Metropolitan Museum and is now the Met Breuer).
Located at the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets, the Whitney is at the southern end of the popular High Line Park. Its building, designed by Renzo Piano, has 50,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space and 13,000 square feet of outdoor galleries. The terraces on the eastern side of the building overlook the High Line and provide panoramic views of the surrounding area. One of the Whitney's two dining venues, the Studio Cafe, has seating on the eighth floor terrace.
The Whitney presents themed exhibitions that change over time. Most of the works come from its permanent collection. However, it also includes works on loan from other institutions.
Its permanent collection is strong in the various modern and post-modern schools. But, although the Whitney was born during the height of the modern movement, the collection is not just abstraction. It also includes works by artists whose work was more realistic such as Edward Hopper, Thomas Hart Benton and Reginald Marsh.
For more information on visiting, see the Whitney's website.
Above: The Whitney's latest home in Manhattan's Meatpacking District near the Hudson River.
Below: The Whitney's terraces overlook the High Line Park.
ARTICLES AND REVIEWS
Exhibition Review: Calder:Hypermobility
Places to see art - - New York City - - Whitney Museum of American Art