5 reasons to check out the new whitney

As the storied American art museum reopens its doors to the public in in its new location downtown today, we’re giving you a rundown of what to get excited about.

by Emily Manning
01 May 2015, 6:20pm

Photography © Nic Lehoux

No more schlepping it uptown: Don't get us wrong, we will sorely miss the Whitney's historic Breuer Building on 75th and Madison (where Proenza Schouler staged its fall/winter 15 show this past February). But let's face it: treking uptown can be a real bitch sometimes, especially in the summer on a stuffy subway car. Now that the museum's moved to the Meatpacking District, you won't be running to make a 6 train with your rush hour woes.

Photography © Nic Lehoux

Its' basically the Rolls Royce of art museums: Smack dab between the Highline and the Hudson River, the new Whitney is straight out of an episode of Pimp My Ride. The downtown move allowed the institution to essentially double in size; the new space boasts 50,000 square feet of column-less indoor exhibition space, the stuff of curators and viewers' dreams alike. But Whitney architect Renzo Piano also included 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space in the form of massive terrace sculpture gardens with staircases that make each of the museum's eight floors accessible from the outside.

Glenn Ligon (b. 1960). Rückenfigur, 2009. Neon and paint, 24 ?- 145 1/2 ?- 5in. (61 ?- 369.6 ?- 12.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee 2011.3a?'i. © Glenn Ligon 

The opening exhibition is everything that's exciting about American art: Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger, Diane Arbus, Georgia O'Keefe, Matthew Barney, Cory Arcangel: the Whitney's inaugural exhibit, America is Hard to See, is an absolute must see for anyone even remotely interested in art. After closing the Breuer building with a Jeff Koons retrospective, the opening show brings together more than 600 works by just over 400 artists spanning the past century. The exhibition is divided into a series of thematic tropes considering American cultural history, politics, identity, and begging the question "what makes an American artist or art work?" A personal highlight: photographer Nan Goldin's The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is screened in its original slideshow format from 85.

Cindy Sherman (b. 1954). Untitled Film Still #45, 1979. Gelatin silver print, Sheet: 8 ?- 10in. (20.3 ?- 25.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner. P.2011.357 © Cindy Sherman; courtesy artist and Metro Pictures, New York.

When it comes to diversity, the Whitney is walking the walk: The Whitney has sustained its fair share of criticism over the years about showing too much love to white male artists, but the new Whitney is working to change that reputation. As New York Times art critic Roberta Smith noted in her review: "For a permanent collection display spanning more than a century of art, the opening show has an unusually high (for the Whitney) percentage of works by women (nearly one-third) and a strong representation of African-American and Asian-American artists, if too few works by Hispanic artists. But this isn't just a matter of numbers; diversity is broadcast by the art itself, throughout the show and in numerous outstanding works and telling juxtapositions."

Even when it comes to the bathrooms: The new Whitney has All Gender bathrooms! And not just ones that look like unmarked electrical closets, either. These ones have specific "All Gender bathroom" place cards, a huge step towards making a totally inclusive museum experience the new normal.

Photography Filip Wolak

It's MObama endorsed: While we're on the subject of an inclusive museum experience, First Lady Michelle Obama had a few things to say about it herself when she delivered the Whitney's inaugural address yesterday morning: "There are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, 'Well, that's not a place for me,'" before citing her own experiences of feeling alienated as a kid from Chicago's rough south side. Obama heralded the new Whitney as a place for "dreaming, witnessing, and making things possible" no matter who you are or where you're from. We can't wait to see what the Whitney dreams up next. 


Text Emily Manning
Images courtesy the Whitney Museum of American Art

Michelle Obama
Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney Museum