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A Bold New Home for Contemporary American Art

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A Bold New Home for Contemporary American Art                                                 

This spring’s opening of the new Whitney Museum of American Art promises to be the art world’s biggest event.

The Whitney Museum of American Art, known simply as "The Whitney," was founded in 1931 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney as a focal center for contemporary American art. Spanning the 20th and 21st centuries, the Whitney's permanent collection comprises over 21,000 works in the gamut of mediums by some 3,000 artists, and its Annual and Biennial exhibitions are renowned as showcases for new artists. Since 1966, the Whitney has stood on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue on the stretch known as Museum Mile, of which that building, designed by Marcel Breuer, is among its most identifiable icons. That location closed last October in order to complete the Whitney’s bold move from Museum Mile to downtown Manhattan’s explosively trendy Meatpacking District, a move realized in the Museum’s equally bold new building.

Designed by architect Renzo Piano, the building includes 50,000 square feet of galleries, including an 18,000 square-foot special exhibitions gallery, the largest column-free museum gallery in New York City. The new Whitney also boasts extensive outdoor exhibition space, along with terraces facing the High Line Park, itself a signature destination of the district. Mr. Piano has designed a dramatically cantilevered entrance that transforms the area outside the building into a sheltered public plaza. From here, visitors can see through the building’s immense windows to across the Hudson River. Also featured are an education center; a black box theater for film, video, and performance; a 170-seat theater looking out over the Hudson; a Conservation Lab, and Library.

Slated for grand opening on May 1, 2015, the first exhibition will be a vast selection of some 650 works by 400 artists from the Whitney’s staggering permanent collection, including works that have rarely been shown. Entitled “ America Is Hard to See,” after a Robert Frost poem, the inaugural show will take a fresh look at American Art from 1900 to the present – the themes, ideas, beliefs, visions, and passions that have concerned American artists over the past century and a half.

As for the iconic Breuer building on Madison Avenue, happily, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will take it over to house its modern and contemporary collections.

The Whitney’s Marcel Breuer building,1966

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