Seems like this is the week of museum news. The Whitney Museum (which focuses on American Art) just broke ground at their new site in the Downtown Meatpacking District (NYC). Renzo Piano, the Italian architect who has built Texas museums like The Menil Collection in Houston and the recently opened Nasher Sculpture Garden in Dallas, has designed a new home for Whitney’s over 19,000 piece permanent collection. (Since I wasn’t in NYC for this myself, I had help with this post from an online article. You can check it out here)
I checked out some pics and videos from the ceremony and it was AWESOME! The folks who attended stood beneath a tent with shovels hanging overhead. Speeches were made by the usual suspects: Mayor Bloomberg, Adam Weinberg (Whitney Director), Renzo Piano, and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s (founder) granddaughter.
Even cooler is that my beloved acrobatic, daredevil dance company Elizabeth Streb performed. (They flew through windows!) Lorna Simpson created a video documentary about the Whitney, as well. You should check out the link to this video because it gives details about the architecture of the museum and a virtual walk-through of the new spaces. (Click here — since I can embed this file type in WP. Scroll to bottom of article.)
In general, I am excited about the new building because it will replace the old monolithic building uptown. Although my architecture friends swear that the Marcel Breuer building is great, I think it’s depressing, dark, and unable to suitably house their dynamic collection. That building has been purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and will house their modern and contemporary collection. Many shifts this week in major institutional buildings changing hands. (See my earlier post on the American Folk Art Museum.)
The site location (Meatpacking District) is perfect for the Whitney. Since this institution gets overshadowed by MoMA, it will have a chance to be a part of this new dynamic arts district which connects Downtown to Chelsea by the Highline (the Diller+Scofidio designed elevated park.) And will have a new kind of “funky” downtown identity that museums like the New Museum have come to profit from.
So now I dream about the day that I will get to stroll (having coffee and a chocolate chip scone in hand) to the Whitney, check out some art, walk into Helmut Lang and buy a funky black blazer, dip into Diane Von Furstenburg for a signature wrap dress, ascend the stairs to stroll down the Highline checking out the wildflowers and views to the Hudson River, and go to Chelsea Market and grab some lunch. Delish!
I hope that more and more cities are able to find ways in which to develop dynamic, cutting edge public spaces in harmony with institutions and retail. It’s truly an accessible and integrated human experience.