The Whitney Museum of American Art, known informally as the "Whitney", is an art museum in Manhattan. It was founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875–1942), a wealthy and prominent American socialite and art patron after whom it is named.
The Whitney focuses on 20th- and 21st-century American art. Its permanent collection comprises more than 23,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, films, videos, and artifacts of new media by more than 3,400 artists. It places particular emphasis on exhibiting the work of living artists as well as maintaining an extensive permanent collection of important pieces from the first half of the last century. The museum's Annual and Biennial exhibitions have long been a venue for younger and lesser-known artists whose work is showcased there.
From 1966 to 2014, the Whitney was at 945 Madison Avenue on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The museum closed in October 2014 to relocate to a new building designed by Renzo Piano at 99 Gansevoort Street in the West Village/Meatpacking District neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan; it reopened at the new location on May 1, 2015.
|Whitney Museum of American Art|
Whitney Museum from the High Line in 2015
Location of the Whitney
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York City)
Whitney Museum of American Art (the United States)
|Location||99 Gansevoort Street, Lower Manhattan, New York City|
|Founder||Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney|
|Director||Adam D. Weinberg|
|Public transit access||Subway: at 14th Street – Eighth Avenue |
Bus: M11, M12, M14A, M14D
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the museum's namesake and founder, was a well-regarded sculptor as well as a serious art collector. As a patron of the arts, she had already achieved some success with the Whitney Studio Club, a New York–based exhibition space she created in 1918 to promote the works of avant-garde and unrecognized American artists. Whitney favored the radical art of the American artists of the Ashcan School such as John French Sloan, George Luks and Everett Shinn, as well as others such as Edward Hopper, Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, Charles Sheeler, and Max Weber.
With the aid of her assistant, Juliana R. Force, Whitney collected nearly 700 works of American art. In 1929, she offered to donate over 500 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the museum declined the gift. This, along with the apparent preference for European modernism at the recently opened Museum of Modern Art, led Whitney to start her own museum, exclusively for American art, in 1929.
Whitney Library archives from 1928 reveal that during this time the Studio Club used the gallery space of Wilhelmina Weber Furlong of the Art Students League to exhibit traveling shows featuring modernist work. In 1931, architect Noel L. Miller converted three row houses on West 8th Street in Greenwich Village—one of which, 8 West 8th Street (Manhattan) had been the location of the Studio Club—to be the museum's home as well as a residence for Whitney. Force became the museum's first director, and under her guidance it concentrated on displaying the works of new and contemporary American artists.
In 1954, the museum left its original location and moved to a small structure on 54th Street connected to and behind the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street. On April 15, 1958, a fire on MOMA's second floor that killed one person forced the evacuation of paintings and staff on MOMA's upper floors to the Whitney. Among the paintings evacuated was A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which was on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 1961, the Whitney began seeking a site for a larger building. In 1966 it settled at the southeast corner of Madison Avenue and 75th Street on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The building, planned and built 1963–1966 by Marcel Breuer and Hamilton P. Smith in a distinctively modern style, is easily distinguished from the neighboring townhouses by its staircase façade made of granite stones and its external upside-down windows. In 1967, Mauricio Lasansky showed The Nazi Drawings. The exhibition traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, where it appeared with shows by Louise Nevelson and Andrew Wyeth as the first exhibits in the new museum.
The institution grappled with space problems for decades. From 1973 to 1983 the Whitney operated its first branch at 55 Water Street, a building owned by Harold Uris, who gave the museum a lease for $1 a year. In 1983 Philip Morris International installed a Whitney branch in the lobby of its Park Avenue headquarters. In 1981 the museum opened an exhibition space in Stamford, Connecticut, housed at Champion International. In the late 1980s, the Whitney entered into arrangements with Park Tower Realty, I.B.M. and The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, setting up satellite museums with rotating exhibitions in their buildings' lobbies. Each museum had its own director, with all plans approved by a Whitney committee.
The institution attempted to expand its landmark building in 1978, commissioning UK architects Derek Walker and Norman Foster to design a tall tower alongside it, the first of several proposals from leading architects. But each time the effort was abandoned, because of either the cost or the design or both. To secure additional space for the museum's collections, then-director Thomas N. Armstrong III developed plans for a 10-story, $37.5 million addition to the main building. The proposed addition, designed by Michael Graves and announced in 1985, drew immediate opposition. Graves had proposed demolishing the flanking brownstones down to the East 74th Street corner for a complementary addition. The project gradually lost the support of the museum's trustees, and the plans were dropped in 1989. Between 1995 and 1998, the building underwent a renovation and expansion by Richard Gluckman. In 2001, Rem Koolhaas was commissioned to submit two designs for a $200 million expansion. Those plans were dropped in 2003, causing director Maxwell L. Anderson to resign. New York restaurateur Danny Meyer opened Untitled, a restaurant in the museum, in March 2011. The space was designed by the Rockwell Group.
The Whitney developed a new main building, designed by Renzo Piano, in the West Village and Meatpacking District in lower Manhattan. The new museum, at the intersection of Gansevoort and Washington Streets, was built on a previously city-owned site and marks the southern entrance to the High Line park. Construction began in 2010 and was completed in 2015. It cost $422 million.
The new structure spans 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) and 8 stories that include the city's largest column-free art gallery spaces, an education center, theater, a conservation lab and a library and reading rooms. Two of the floors are fully devoted to the museum's permanent collection. The only permanent artwork commissioned for the site—its four main elevators—were conceived by Richard Artschwager. The new building's collection comprises over 600 works by over 400 artists. There are observation decks on the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th floors linked by an outdoor staircase.
The new building is much more expansive and open than the old ones. As one New York Times review described the building:
The Whitney ... has a series of events spaces at its margins: a flexible auditorium and four large terraces, three of which are linked by an outdoor staircase. ... It has timed tickets that are designed to control crowding, but people may linger longer than expected. After art they can retire to the eighth-floor cafe, the terraces or the lines of comfy leather couches facing glass walls overlooking the Hudson and Greenwich Village at either end of the fifth floor.
The museum needed to raise $760 million for the building and its endowment. In May 2011, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced it had entered into an agreement to occupy the Madison Avenue building for at least eight years starting in 2015, easing the Whitney's burden of having to finance two large museum spaces. The occupation of the old space was later postponed to 2016.
The museum displays paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, installation art, video, and photography. Every two years, the museum hosts the Whitney Biennial, an international art show which displays many lesser-known artists new to the American art scene. It has displayed works by many notable artists, and has featured unconventional works such as a 1976 exhibit of live body builders, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The original 600 works in the permanent collection grew to about 1,300 by 1954 when the second building opened, and to approximately 2,000 with the opening of the Breuer building in 1966. Today the permanent collection contains more than 23,000 works of art by many renowned artists. Artists represented include Josef Albers, Joe Andoe, Donald Baechler, Thomas Hart Benton, Lucile Blanch, Louise Bourgeois, Sonia Gordon Brown, Charles Burchfield, Alexander Calder, Suzanne Caporael, Carolina Caycedo, Ching Ho Cheng, Talia Chetrit, Ann Craven, Anna Craycroft, Dan Christensen, Greg Colson, Susan Crocker, Ronald Davis, Stuart Davis, Mira Dancy, Lindsey Decker, Martha Diamond, Richard Diebenkorn, Daniella Dooling, Arthur Dove, Loretta Dunkelman, William Eggleston, Helen Frankenthaler, Georgia O'Keeffe, Arshile Gorky, Keith Haring, Grace Hartigan, Marsden Hartley, Robert Henri, Carmen Herrera, Eva Hesse, Hans Hofmann, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, Corita Kent, Franz Kline, Terence Koh, Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Ronnie Landfield, John Marin, Knox Martin, John McCracken, John McLaughlin, Robert Motherwell, Bruce Nauman, Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman, Kenneth Noland, Paul Pfeiffer, Jackson Pollock, Larry Poons, Maurice Prendergast, Kenneth Price, Robert Rauschenberg, Man Ray, Mark Rothko, Morgan Russell, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Cindy Sherman, John Sloan, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, and hundreds of others. A photography collection was begun in 1991.
In addition to its traditional collection the Whitney has a website, Artport, that features "Net Art" that changes regularly. The Whitney will not sell any work by a living artist because it could damage that artist's career. But it will trade a living artist's work for another piece by the same artist.
The Frances Mulhall Achilles Library is a research library originally built on the collections of books and papers of founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and the Whitney Museum's first director, Juliana Force. The Library operates in the West Chelsea area of New York City. It contains Special Collections and the Whitney Museum Archives. The Archives contain the Institutional Archives, Research Collections, and Manuscript Collections. The Special Collections consist of artists' books, portfolios, photographs, titles in the Whitney Fellows Artist and Writers Series (1982–2001), posters, and valuable ephemera that relate to the permanent collection. The Institutional Archives include exhibition records, photographs, curatorial research notes, artist's correspondence, audio and video recordings, and trustees' papers from 1912 to the present.
Books and materials in the Library can be accessed in the Museum's database.
The Whitney Independent Study Program (ISP) was founded in 1968 by Ron Clark. The Whitney ISP has helped start the careers of artists, critics, and curators including Jenny Holzer, Andrea Fraser, Julian Schnabel, Kathryn Bigelow, Roberta Smith, and Félix González-Torres, as well as many other well-known cultural producers. The program includes both art history and studio programs. Each year the ISP selects 14 students for the Studio Program (artists), four for the Curatorial Program (curators) and six for the Critical Studies Program (researchers). It is a one-year program that includes both visiting and hired artists, art historians and critics, and involves the reading of theory. Clark remains its director.
As of March 2011, the Whitney's endowment was $207 million; the museum expected to raise $625 million from its capital campaign by 2015. As of June 2016, the endowment had grown to $308 million.
Historically, the operating performance has been essentially breakeven. The museum restricts the use of its endowment fund for yearly operating expenses to 5 percent of the fund's value. The Whitney has historically depended on private collectors and donors for acquisitions of new art. In 2008, Leonard A. Lauder gave the museum $131 million, the biggest donation in the Whitney's history. Donations for new purchases dropped to $1.3 million in 2010 from $2.7 million in 2006.
The museum's director is Adam D. Weinberg (since 2003). Former directors include Maxwell L. Anderson (1998–2003), David A. Ross (1991–1997), Thomas Armstrong III (1974–1990), and Juliana Rieser Force (1931–1948).
For years Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney supported the museum single-handedly, as did her daughter, Flora Whitney Miller, after her, and until 1961 its board was largely family-run. Flora Payne Whitney served as a museum trustee, then as vice president. From 1942 to 1974 she was the museum's president and chair, after which she served as honorary chair until her death in 1986. Her daughter Flora Miller Biddle served as president until 1985. Her book The Whitney Women and the Museum They Made was published in 1999.
In 1961, the need for outside support finally forced the board to add outside trustees, including bankers Roy Neuberger and Arthur Altschul. David Solinger became the Whitney's first outside president in 1966.
The Board of Trustees has come under criticism since November 2018 by groups including Decolonize This Place, the Chinatown Art Brigade, and W.A.G.E. for vice chair Warren B. Kanders' ownership of the company Safariland, which manufactured tear gas used against the late 2018 migrant caravans. 120 scholars and critics published an open letter to the Whitney Museum asking for the removal of Kanders from the Museum board; additional signatories after the letter's initial posting included almost fifty artists who have been selected for the 2019 Whitney Biennial. A series of nine weeks of protest by Decolonize This Place included actions highlighting the oppression of Puerto Rican and Palestinian peoples, among others, whose oppression is connected to the use of weapons manufactured by Kanders' company, Safariland.
Barbara Haskell (born 1946 in San Diego, California) is an American art historian and a museum curator. She is currently a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she has worked since 1975. She has previously worked at the San Francisco Museum of Art and Pasadena Museum. She has a BA (1969) from the University of California, Los Angeles.Her area of expertise is early to mid-20th-century painting and sculpture, including American Modernists, Abstract Expressionists, and Pop artists. She is the founder and leader of the American Fellows, a patrons group for major donors to the Whitney.Among the landmark thematic exhibitions she has curated are The American Century: Art & Culture 1900–1950 (1999), and BLAM! The Explosion of Pop, Minimalism and Performance 1958–1964 (1984). In addition, she has curated retrospectives and authored accompanying scholarly monographs on a range of early-20th-century and post-war American artists, including H.C. Westermann (1978), Marsden Hartley (1980), Milton Avery (1982), Ralston Crawford (1985), Charles Demuth (1987), Red Grooms (1987), Donald Judd (1988), Burgoyne Diller (1990), Agnes Martin (1992), Joseph Stella (1994), Edward Steichen (2000), Elie Nadelman (2003), Oscar Bluemner (2005), Georgia O'Keeffe (2009), Lyonel Feininger (2011), Robert Indiana (2013), Stuart Davis (2016), and Grant Wood (2018).Christiane Paul (curator)
Christiane Paul is an Associate Professor in the School of Media Studies at The New School, and Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.Christopher Y. Lew
Christopher Y. Lew is an American art curator and writer based in New York City. Lew is currently the Nancy and Fred Poses Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art.Early Sunday Morning
Early Sunday Morning is a 1930 painting by Edward Hopper.Elisabeth Sussman
Elisabeth Sussman is an American art curator. She currently works at the Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 2013 she was awarded the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence from The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, in recognition of her 40-year career as a groundbreaking curator.Ethel Scull 36 Times
Ethel Scull 36 Times is a 1963 painting by American artist Andy Warhol, is currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art and is part of the collections of both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. It was Warhol's first commissioned work. The work consists of four rows of nine equal columns, depicting Ethel Redner Scull, a well-known collector of modern art. The artwork is jointly owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (January 9, 1875 – April 18, 1942) was an American sculptor, art patron and collector, and founder in 1931 of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. She was a prominent social figure and hostess, who was born into the wealthy Vanderbilt family and married into the Whitney family.Green Coca-Cola Bottles
Green Coca-Cola Bottles is a 1962 painting by Andy Warhol that depicts one hundred and twelve almost identical bottles Coca-Cola bottles.
Green Coca-Cola Bottles took a mainstream item and converted it into a piece of art. Warhol’s piece utilized a silkscreen technique, which mechanicalized some aspects of the painting but featured individualized “unevenness” across the painting. The painting engenders an optimistic message for the American public, described in Warhol’s own words, “What’s grand about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same thing as the poorest... you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and, just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke, and no amount of money can get you a better Coke.”I. Rice Pereira
Irene Rice Pereira (August 5, 1902 – January 11, 1971) was an American abstract artist, poet, and philosopher who played a significant role in the development of modernism in America. She is known for her work in the Geometric abstraction, Abstract expressionist, and lyrical abstraction genres and her use of the principles of the Bauhaus school. Pereira's paintings and writings were influenced significantly by the complex intellectual currents of the 20th century.Jane Panetta
Jane Panetta is a New York-based curator and art historian. Panetta is currently an Associate Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art.Juliana R. Force
Juliana R. Force (December 25, 1876 – August 28, 1948) was an American art museum administrator and director.Leonard Lauder
Leonard Alan Lauder (born March 19, 1933) is an American billionaire businessman and art collector.
He is the chairman emeritus of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. He was chief executive officer until 1999. Today, Estée Lauder operates several brands in the cosmetic industry, including Estée Lauder, Clinique, MAC Cosmetics, Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Smashbox and La Mer.
In April 2013, he promised his collection of 81 Cubist paintings, works on paper, and sculptures, consisting of 34 pieces by Pablo Picasso, 17 by Georges Braque, 15 by Fernand Léger, and 15 by Juan Gris, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.Lauder's net worth as of February 2019 is estimated at $13.2 billion.List of works by Edward Hopper
The following is a list of works by American painter Edward Hopper.Little Big Painting
Little Big Painting is a 1965 oil and Magna on canvas pop art painting by Roy Lichtenstein. It is part of the Brushstrokes series of artworks that include several paintings and sculptures. It is located at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. As with all of his Brushstrokes works, it is in part a satirical response to the gestural painting of abstract expressionism.Lloyd Goodrich
Lloyd Goodrich (July 10, 1897 – March 27, 1987) was an American art historian. He wrote extensively on American artists, including Edward Hopper, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Raphael Soyer and Reginald Marsh. He was associated with the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City for many years.Rujeko Hockley
Rujeko Hockley (born in Zimbabwe) is a New York-based US curator. Hockley is currently an Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art.Second Story Sunlight
Second Story Sunlight is a 1960 painting by the American artist Edward Hopper. It depicts two women of different ages on the second-story balcony of a white house. The older woman reads a newspaper while the younger woman sits on the railing.
Hopper described the painting to Katharine Kuh as one of his personal favorites. It is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art.Whitney Biennial
The Whitney Biennial is a biennale exhibition of contemporary American art, typically by young and lesser known artists, on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, United States. The event began as an annual exhibition in 1932, the first biennial was in 1973. The Whitney show is generally regarded as one of the leading shows in the art world, often setting or leading trends in contemporary art. It helped bring artists like Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock and Jeff Koons to prominence.Whitney Museum of American Art (original building)
The Whitney Museum of American Art original building is a collection of three 1838 rowhouses located at 8-12 West 8th Street between Fifth Avenue and MacDougal Street in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. In 1907, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney established the Whitney Studio Gallery at 8 West 8th Street adjacent to her own MacDougal Alley studio. This, and the later Whitney Studio Club at 147 West 4th Street, were intended to provide young artists with places to meet and exhibit their works.
In 1918, American artist and friend Robert Winthrop Chanler was commissioned to redesign the interior of the 8th street property, adding an allegorical bas-relief ceiling, a 20-foot-high plaster and bronze fireplace, elaborate stained glass windows and decorative screens.In 1929, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art rejected Whitney's offer of the gift of nearly 500 new artworks that she had collected, Whitney established the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1931 she had architect Auguste L. Noel of the firm of Noel & Miller convert the three row houses at 8-12 West 8th Street into a gallery and residence for herself, and the museum's first home.In the 1940s, there were unrealized plans to incorporate the collections of the Whitney into the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of the 75th anniversary celebration of the Met. In 1954, the museum moved uptown to new quarters on 54th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues – eventually settling in 1966 at 945 Madison Avenue at East 75th Street – and the building, with the addition of #14 West 8th Street, an Italianate house built in 1853-54, became the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.
The building is located within the Greenwich Village Historic District, established in 1969 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992. Listed on the World Monuments Fund's 2012 Watch list, it has been the focus of an extensive restoration project on the part of the University of Pennsylvania’s Architectural Conservation Laboratory (ACL), in collaboration with the Fund.
Museums in Manhattan
|Financial District and Battery Park|
(Below Chambers St)
|Chelsea, Flatiron, Gramercy|
|Upper West Side|
(59th-125th Sts west of 5th Av)
|Upper East Side and East Harlem|
(59th-125th Sts along or east of 5th Av)
(Above 125th St)
|More than 10 million|
|1 to 10 million|
Note: Visitor numbers are estimates only.
See also: Tourism in New York City