Adam Lindemann offers a masterly analysis of how Thomas Krens changed the world of museums. He also suggests why it might have been better if the Whitney had followed Krens’s playbook for the Guggenheim by selling some works to shore up the endowment and playing up their architectural masterpiece as a tourist attraction appealing to European visitors:
Compare this to the poor job done by the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is the owner of a fantastic brutalist Marcel Breuer masterpiece, a building that sadly has less than half the attendance of the Guggenheim, and 80 percent of its visitors are mere New Yorkers. To add insult to injury, the museum is abandoning its flagship on Park Avenue and renting it out to the Metropolitan Museum, because the Whitney is pouring all its resources into a newer, bigger, downtown Whitney designed by Renzo Piano, the volume of which will allow the Whitney to show more of its vast collection.
If bigger doesn’t result in better, the Whitney will have done New York a terrible disservice, one that could have been easily avoided if only it had raised funds by selling a few artworks out of its vast holdings. Isn’t the Breuer building a work of art, one that is more meaningful to the museum’s identity than any painting could ever be? Imagine if it had the vision to leave the “uptown Whitney” as a true museum of American Art, the only one in New York, where the museum’s amazing collection of Ash Can artists like Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler and George Bellows would be on permanent display. Would I care if the downtown museum were cut in half? Absolutely not. There is plenty of museum quality free art to see downtown in all the Chelsea galleries; who needs to pay good money to see any more of it?
Whatever Happened to Thomas Krens? (NY Observer)
Believe it or not, Jerry Saltz has lots of ideas about the new Whitney expansion plans:
If I were on the Whitney’s planning committee I’d trust the curators to curate, even if many of their shows would be infuriating. I’d harp on one thing: building enough interior space to permanently display the permanent collection. The Whitney must learn from the Museum of Modern Art’s mistakes. Even after spending over $750 million dollars on their expansion, MoMA neglected to reserve enough room for the greatest collection of modern art in the world. The result borders on tragic. The Whitney plans to build nice-sounding things downtown — outdoor sculpture gardens, roof decks, classrooms, seminar rooms, a research library, an auditorium, a study center, a café, and a bookstore. But none of that will matter if it fails to build enough space for art — and 50,000 square feet doesn’t sound like enough.Continue Reading
By now you’ve heard the news that the Whitney is, indeed, moving down to New York’s Meatpacking district where a six-floor 195,000 square foot Renzo Piano-designed museum will be built for $680 million ($372 million of which has astonishingly been raised already.) (Details from Lindsay Pollock.)
What you haven’t heard is that Leonard Lauder is on board with the plan, according to Carol Vogel:
The board met not at the museum, as it usually does, but in a conference room at the Standard Hotel on Washington Street, a block and a half from the new site. During the two-hour meeting, Leonard A. Lauder — the Whitney’s chairman emeritus and largest benefactor, and until now an opponent of the project — surprised everyone by voting in favor of the new building. Indeed, although there have been rumors for weeks that Mr. Lauder was considering resigning if the project went ahead, he spoke passionately in favor of it at the meeting.
“Downtown is a new city, a new nation. Why shouldn’t the Whitney be the museum of record there?” Mr. Lauder said in an interview.Continue Reading