The 2015 opening of the Whitney Museum's new West Village building was the most significant moment of the decade for the New York City museum landscape. The Whitney, long in the shadow of its former Museum Mile neighbors, has become a destination in itself. The spacious, Renzo Piano-designed building allows the more of the museum's massive collection of American Art to be on display. Its location at the terminus of the High Line serves as a capstone to that unique achievement in urban redevelopment and brings large-scale curation to a revitalized neighborhood previously underserved by institutional museums. And its former Upper East Side home now houses the Met's long underappreciated collection of Modern and Contemporary Art. Everyone wins, especially the museum-going public.
Art is an ascending or descending scale, the spirit of its joy reaches us in unexpected ways. It travels on slender threads but it is within the grasp of all who care enough to want to see and understand.
What You Will See
This is not the place for Spanish Surrealists, French Impressionists, Swiss Dadaists or Italian Masters. The Whitney is home to one of the largest collections of works by American artists in the world, and given the relatively short history of American art, exhibits lean towards the modern. The permanent collection of paintings and sculpture includes some of the most recognizable and iconic works produced in the New World during the twentieth-century from such names as Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe and Andy Warhol. But the museum is also an active curator of contemporary art and its (often controversial) Biennial Exhibition is of the premier events in the Contemporary Art.
Why You Should Go
While the Whitney does not have the luxury of drawing upon the rich artistic traditions of other countries and cultures, its focus on American Art is unique among New York museums, and its collection rivals (or surpasses) that of larger, polythematic institutions. Come review the brief but intense history of American art in the permanent collection or discover a new contemporary artist highlighted in a rotating exhibits. Even if your interests do not lay in traditional art museums, the building alone is an experience, with its sleek design, outdoor plazas and incomparable views of the Hudson River, Lower Manhattan and the High Line.
This blockbuster exhibition revisits one of the most significant moments in North American art history: the rise of the Mexican muralists. This early 20th-century format pioneered and perfected by the likes of Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco produced incredible large-scale murals. But, as this exhibit makes clear, the impact of this movement continues to influence contemporary art a century later.
Since moving to its beautiful new home in 2015, the Whitney has shown selections of its permanent collection in rotating exhibitions, a practice that is become more and more common. This season, the permanent collection exhibition focuses on the Whitney's founding collection, supplemented by recent acquisitions. As you would hope, Edward Hopper and Georgia O'Keeffe feature prominently in the exhibition.
Though born in 1881, Agnes Pelton's vibrant abstract works feel as if they were composed by an artist born 100 years later. Like many prolific twentieth-century artists, Pelton's work evolved with time. This exhibition, originally organized by the Phoenix Art Museum, focuses on the "Imaginative Paintings" inspired by her time in the American Southwest. Marvel at over 40 works from this underappreciated American artist.
The Whitney's vast collection of American art is re-curated in this exhibition to explore the influence of craft on different artistic mediums. Craft, such as weaving and bead-work, is often considered a distinct field from painting and sculpture. These works, however, show the influence of folk and decorative arts on contemporary painting. Works by more than sixty contemporary artists, including Robert Rauschenberg and Kahil Robert Irving make up the large, long-running exhibition.
The transformation of the waterfront of Lower Manhattan continues with the much-anticipated completion of a large-scale work of Public Art. Day's End, a site-specific sculpture by the artist David Hammons, will debut later in the fall along the Hudson River. In preparation, the Whitney Museum is hosting this small exhibition, combining design plans for the project with historical photographs of the neighborhood from the 1970s and 1980s. The exhibit provides an interesting tour through the lost art and faded culture of the Meatpacking District.
The ever-popular Roy Lichtenstein returns to the Whitney in this small exhibition focused not on his usual cartoon-based pop art, but rather his interest in classical architecture. During the 1970s, Lichtenstein produced two series of paintings entitle Entabltures. This exhibit contains sketches, drawings, and other preparatory materials used by the artist to prepare for the final works. It is a revealing look at the artistic process of one of America's favorite creatives.
Contemporary filmmaker Cauleen Smith receives her first solo exhibition at the Whitney this season. Two films, Sojourner and Pilgrim screen at the center of the exhibition, which also features selected drawings (Firespitters). The films are generally experimental, exploring spiritual and cultural sites significant to key Black women writers. This solo show follows her impressive installation at the Whitney's 2017 Biennial.
We Wither Time into a Coil of Fright
closes 31 January 2021