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
ArtInfo.com has a whopper of an item which is either an extraordinarily bold move or the result of some folks with too much time on their hands. It involves a secret plan to be discussed with the Whitney’s board next week to move the museum to the meat-packing district while still fulfilling an obligation to Leonard Lauder who doesn’t want the museum to sell the current Joseph Breuer-designed home on Madison Ave.:
the Whitney, which has long chafed under the cramped dimensions of its magnificent Brutalist building on 75th Street, would relocate entirely to its planned Renzo Piano satellite downtown — but instead of selling the flagship location, it would lease it to the august Metropolitan Museum of Art.Continue Reading
Kate Taylor and Carol Vogel explore the conundrum facing the Whitney Museum which has been trying to expand in New York City for decades. With 18,000 works of art in their collection but only room to show 150, the museum needs and wants a new building but many on the board fear it does not have enough money to run a second location. Plans are afoot for that satellite location downtown:
The institution has quietly been gathering financial support for the $680 million project, which would involve a new 185,000-square-foot building on a city-owned site at Washington and Gansevoort Streets in the meatpacking district. Whitney officials say they have promises and signed pledges totaling $371 million and expect to have $105 million more from the sale of adjacent brownstones and its annex building uptown.Continue Reading
New York Magazine’s Rachel Wolff profiles Whitney Biennial curator Francesco Bonomi as a failed painter:
Bonami wasn’t always a painter, much less an influential curator. He wasn’t great in school; he left his native Italy and bounced around Scandinavia without the slightest interest in the arts. He eventually studied stage design to appease his conservative parents, then decided to pursue painting instead.
“I was always behind the trends,” he says, scanning his overstuffed bookshelves. “I came to New York with my paintings at the same time Jeff Koons was showing his stainless-steel bunnies.” He extracts two slim volumes—catalogues from solo shows he had in the mid-eighties in New York and Milan. I skim through them as the artist-cum-curator readies his materials and takes a seat. The paintings are mostly representational and a little hokey, with funerary themes and titles like What You Didn’t Know Yesterday. “I’m going to make you a classic,” he says. Continue Reading
Carol Vogel previews the Whitney Biennial:
the show will be smaller than it has been in recent years, with just 55 artists, down from 81 in 2008 and 100 in 2006. It will also be contained in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s home, the Marcel Breuer building, rather than spilling over into a second location, as the 2008 Biennial did when it occupied much of the Park Avenue Armory or into Central Park as other Biennials have. […]
On view will be a mix of well-known and new artists ranging in age from a 23-year-old photographer, Tam Tran, to the 75-year-old conceptual artist Lorraine O’Grady.Continue Reading