Openings Museums USA

More room for American art when Whitney moves downtown

The museum announces the opening programme for its new home, including the largest installation of its permanent collection and a retrospective for Frank Stella

The Whitney Museum of American Art's new building under construction in the Meatpacking District, April 2014. Photo: Timothy Schenck

The Whitney Museum of American Art invited the press to visit its building in the Meatpacking District yesterday, giving a view into what the final plan will look like when it opens its new home next spring. Among the exhibitions that will inaugurate the space are a long overdue retrospective of the artist Frank Stella, the largest display ever of the Whitney’s permanent collection of American art, works gifted to the museum by the collectors Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner, and solo shows for Archibald Motley, Laura Poitras and David Wojnarowicz.

The building, which sits next to the High Line Park, is due to include more than 50,000 sq. ft of indoor exhibition space, including an 18,200 sq. ft., unobstructed gallery which the curator Chrissie Iles called “a curator’s dream”. It also includes 32,000 sq. ft for the permanent collection, tripling the space currently available in the museum’s Marcel Breuer building. Among the first exhibitions from that collection will be a show of work from 1900 onward. “I thought I knew the permanent collection,” said the director Adam Weinberg. “But I think there will be some surprises.” The building will also feature dedicated spaces for conservation and the study of prints, which the museum does not have in its current home at the Marcel Breuer building.

The largest gallery will be used for temporary exhibitions and will host the first retrospective of Frank Stella to be held in New York in 45 years, due to open in the autumn of 2015. Additional programming will include shows of the Harlem Renaissance artist Archibald Motley and the New York photographer David Wojnarowicz.

Taking note of the damage Hurricane Sandy had on the neighborhood in 2012, the architect, Renzo Piano, has designed a mobile flood barrier around the museum that can be erected in case of emergency. The barrier will protect the building up to 16.5 feet above the level of the adjacent Hudson River, and can be fully installed within two days notice if necessary.

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