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Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Whitney and the High Line

The new Whitney, from the High Line. Note the Whitney
visitors cantilevered out to admire their view. Alice
Tepper Marlin in the foreground. Photo by JT Marlin.
New York City is blessed with museums, and the Whitney Museum can be considered one of the "Big Four", the other three being the Met, MOMA and the Guggenheim.

The new Whitney that opened on May 1 is its fourth incarnation. According to a 2006 article by Calvin Tomkins, the Whitney originated from an offer in 1929 to the director of the Met of 500 contemporary paintings and sculptures by artists that had been showing in the makeshift Whitney Studio.

The Met's director, Edward Robinson, rejected the offer so brusquely that he appears not to have realized that a substantial endowment would accompany the art.

Instead of giving the art and endowment to the Met, the donor - Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney - created the first Whitney Museum of American Art in three converted brownstones in 1931. The Whitney sponsored Biennial Exhibitions and purchased art from them.

The latest incarnation of the Whitney by Renzo Piano has been widely praised, for example by Peter Schjeldahl. Alice and I walked down the High Line to look at it. We are located about one block from the High Line. The Whitney is at the southern end of the High Line on Gansevoort Street. It's a pleasant walk, and we enjoyed seeing the changing landscape of the High Line, changes both seasonal and permanent.

Comparing the Tomkins' and Schjeldahl articles it seems that the new Whitney may be five years late and way over budget, but the new building is a big success and will be an anchor for Chelsea, where we have lived for 44 years.