Posts tagged with "Whitney Museum":

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Forensic Architecture and seven other artists withdraw from Whitney Biennial

Over the weekend, eight artists whose work is showcased in this year’s Whitney Biennial have called for their pieces to be removed from the museum, citing one board member's ties to supplying tear gas and live ammunition to countries currently in political crises, including the U.S.  According to Artforum, even after months of protests from artists and other scholars, the Whitney Museum has yet to force the resignation of Warren B. Kanders, vice-chair of the board and CEO of global weapons manufacturer Safariland. His products have been used to squelch protests in at least 13 countries, leading the major art event to earn the nickname, “The Tear Gas Biennial.” In an open letter to the biennial’s curators first published on Artforum, the first group of four artists shared their reasons for withdrawing their work:
“We care deeply about the Whitney. Over the years, many shows at the Museum have inspired and informed our art. We were angry when we learned of Kanders’s role as CEO of Safariland, a company that manufactures tear gas and other weapons of repression. At the time, we had already accepted your invitation to participate in the Whitney Biennial and were all well into fabrication of major pieces for this show. We found ourselves in a difficult position: withdraw in protest or stay and abide a conflicted conscience. We decided to participate.” “But the Museum’s continued failure to respond in any meaningful way to growing pressure from artists and activists has made our participation untenable. The Museum’s inertia has turned the screw, and we refuse further complicity with Kanders and his technologies of violence.”
Among the eight artists to denounce the Biennale was the University of London-based research group Forensic Architecture, which uses architectural spatial analysis and forensic techniques to study human rights violations around the world. Hyperallergic reported that the studio has asked the Whitney to replace its 10-minute video, Triple-Chaser, which traces the spread of tear gas and bullets through companies like Safariland, with a new film that shows incriminating evidence that Kanders is directly linked to a bullet company that’s been selling products to the Israeli Military Industry. The New York Times dually noted that Kanders’ supply of tear-gas grenades have been allegedly used during protests at not only the Israeli-Palestinian border in Gaza, but also at United States-Mexico border, in Ferguson, Missouri, and at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which straddles both North and South Dakota. Forensic Architecture and its founder Eyal Weizman have not commented on the news yet, but Whitney director Adam D. Weinberg, released a statement on Friday saying the museum will follow through with the artists’ requests, according to the New York Times “The Whitney respects the opinions of all the artists it exhibits and stands by their right to express themselves freely. While the Whitney is saddened by this decision, we will of course comply with the artists’ request.”  It’s unclear exactly when the pieces will be removed from the exhibition, but it will likely happen quickly as the Biennale is set to close in two months. So far, work from the remaining 67 exhibitors will stay on view in the showcase through September 22.   
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Forensic Architecture sets a high bar at the Whitney Biennial

“While my company and the museum have distinct missions, both are important contributors to our society,” said Whitney Museum of American Art vice chairman Warren B. Kanders. This statement, salvaged from a letter leaked by ARTnews in December, sets the tone as the opening visual for Forensic Architecture’s installation at the Whitney Biennial—a 15-minute video delivering the collective's most recent foray into artificial intelligence, titled Triple Chaser. The London-based architecture and science research group chose to respond to the Kanders tear gas and munitions scandal not with a withdrawal from the biennial, but with the creation of a work of art-as-social justice tool, a submission that infiltrates the subject of derision’s own institution. Their video, created in collaboration with director Laura Poitras and Praxis Films, is narrated by David Byrne cooly explaining how FA approached the training of a computer program to track and recognize images of “Triple Chaser” tear gas canisters and subsequently reduce the amount of human labor needed to do so. The program is trained to recognize the canisters, so named for the way they break into three distinct pieces after being fired, and not become used to identifying just the degraded landscapes they usually occur in. Forensic Architecture’s website, as well as the video, comments that “Whereas the export of military equipment from the US is a matter of public record, the sale and export of tear gas is not.” The analyzed images act as proof of their use, and therefore sale, to over 14 countries including US border states -- and these canisters are just one of the many munitions manufactured by Defense Technology, a subsidiary of the Safariland Group -- Kanders is the founder, chairman, and chief executive. Byrne’s narration clearly and objectively describes the group’s methods in creating a piece of artificial intelligence, accompanied by visuals and music that are at once pragmatic as well as sensually arresting. Viewers are prompted before one section of the video with a seizure warning, as a series of bold geometric backgrounds used to train the program appear, the compositions flashing at rapid speed on screen, a kaleidoscope of color and stimulation. The tear gas cans are highlighted and boxed in bright pinks, yellows and blues that act as sharp contrasts against the dusty, barren landscapes of the war zones they are scattered in. Whole sections of the video are also set to the symphonic music of Richard Strauss, Kander’s personal choice for the Aspen Music Festival section named for him after a multi-million dollar donation. The haunting strings and dramatic woodwind crescendos are fitting for the eerie images they amplify. This video is an overtly collaborative work, and FA reached out to other artists and activists working in zones of political unrest, where the canisters are common, to fill out their image banks. The video shows one video submission of a rusted canister from an artists colony in Israel, one that Byrne introduces as “one of the most heavily gassed artist's colonies in the world.” In FA’s data-driven way, their video encompasses why a cultural institution like the Whitney cannot have, in the opinion of many, a man like Kanders on a board that should be protecting, not attacking, artists and their voices. Forensic Architecture as a firm, a lab, a collective, is inherently interdisciplinary, regularly overstepping traditional boundaries between professions and genres. Their “artwork” is serving a similar focus as well. Is this video just as much “art” as the Arroyo paintings in the same gallery? Politics have always been a subject of art, artists and creative output, but the contemporary climate seems to be showing artists as not only creating political works, but exposing politics and its maneuvering as art inherent in its existence -- politics create culture, and other elements of culture are responding to what politicians and votes are “creating.” But is “Triple Chaser” a work of art, or a work of journalism, or of anthropological research? A reorganization and alt-method of displaying data, the inclusion of Forensic Architecture at the Whitney Biennial sets a possible precedent for contemporary art, one that may be hyper-specific to current events, relevant due to an Internet-age concept of timeliness.
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Forensic Architecture joins the 2019 Whitney Biennial as controversy grows

The Whitney Museum is ramping up for its 2019 Biennial and has revealed its list of 75 contributing artists. The Biennial has, since 1932, been a prestige showcase of the contemporary art landscape in the United States. While this year’s show won't open until May 17, it has already courted controversy. This year’s exhibition, curated by Jane Panetta and Rujeko Hockley, will also include the London-based arts-architecture-and-science research collective Forensic Architecture, which is hot off of its nomination for a Turner Prize last year. The run-up to the exhibition has been fraught. After Hyperallergic revealed in November of last year that Warren Kanders, a Whitney vice chairman, was the owner and CEO of Safariland—a weapons company responsible for manufacturing tear gas used at the border and the Standing Rock protests—a number of artists have spoken out in protest. Artist Michael Rakowitz has already withdrawn from the show as several other contributors, including Forensic Architecture, have indicated that their contributions will directly address the Safariland issue. With the Whitney refusing to remove Kanders from his position, the activist group Decolonize This Place has pledged to hold nine weeks of “art and action” before the Biennial’s start. In a statement released on Twitter, the group has also promised that it will work with the Biennial’s artists to pressure the museum into removing Kanders, as well as hold supplemental events that spotlight the voices of indigenous and marginalized peoples. Decolonize This Place has emphasized its belief that the museum should not be able to profit through “state-sponsored violence” and has iterated its support for any artists who choose to drop out from the Biennial in the coming months. When reached for comment, Forensic Architecture directed AN to the following statement released on Twitter earlier today. “In light of recent reporting by @hyperallergic & protests by @decolonize_this & others, our invitation to the 2019 #WhitneyBiennial has become a challenge which unites the political & cultural dimensions of our practice. We will respond through our contribution.”
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Latinx artists explore modern architecture and indigenous space at the Whitney

The Whitney Museum exhibition Pacha, Llaqta, Wasichay: Indigenous Space, Modern Architecture, New Art displays seven Latinx artists’ responses to the built environment through construction, land, and space. Curator Marcela Guerrero has brought together 80 recent works and site-specific installations by William Cordova, Livia Corona Benjamín, Jorge González, Guadalupe Maravilla, Claudia Peña Salinas, Ronny Quevedo, and Clarissa Tossin. The works display a wide range of references, from adaptations of pre-Columbian temples to migration routes. The title iincludes three words in Quechua, the most common indigenous language spoken today in the Americas. Each has multiple meanings: Pacha is the universe, time, space, nature, world; llaqta, place, country, community, town; and wasichay, to build or construct a house. Clarissa Tossin’s video, Ch’u Mayaa (Maya Blue) (2017), was shot at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. Tossin moves figures around the temple-like forms to a soundtrack of body sounds and pre-Columbian flutes while demonstrating the performative, ceremonial nature of Mayan (and Mayan revival) architecture. Tossin’s sculptures that surround the video are inspired by reliefs at the nearby Mayan Theater by Mexican artist Francisco Cornejo that referenced both Central America and Hollywood film productions. Ronny Quevedo’s father was a professional soccer player in Ecuador, and his Orders of Magnitude (desde Qoricancha) (2018), Errant Globe (2015), and Ulama, Ule, Olé (2012) use sports themes (here, ulama, a ball game) with imagery of a gym floor, ball courts, and constellations arranged in “maps.” Gold leaf refers to Spanish colonial invaders and is used to render migratory patterns visible, including his own; Quevedo’s family relocated from Ecuador to New York. In her photogram series, Infinite Rewrite (2018), Livia Corona Benjamín features Mexican grain silos or graneros del pueblo (silos for the people) built during the Compañía Nacional de Subsistencias Populares initiative from 1965-1999. A prototype design by architect Pedro Ramirez Vázquez could be built by farmers with local materials. However, the 4,000 silos that were built were abandoned, and the project ended in failure. These photos, made with multiple exposures that fracture the image almost like mosaics, show how the structures have since been adapted for other purposes: schools, churches, motels. In the gallery, the installation uses 12-foot-tall walls and a floor plan that echoes both the silos’ conical shapes and cruciform plazas. Ayacabo Guarocoel (2018) by Jorge Gonzalez combined Modernism and Puerto Rican Taino (indigenous Caribbean) vernacular in this site-specific installation of a full-height windowed gallery looking eastward. The accordion roof is the mid-century element while the walls are enea (cattail) and dried clay, used in bohíos (huts) and in furniture. He has also made benches specifically for the exhibition. Another site-specific installation sits on the outdoor fifth-floor terrace called huaca (sacred geometries) (2018), by William Cordova, and uses wood with a stainless-steel gate. It references Huaca Huantille, a temple from the Ichma culture (1100–1400 AD) in Peru that predates the Inca. Before it became an official heritage site in 2001, the temple was claimed by squatters who improvised shelters out of scaffolding (the artist grew up nearby). Seen from the balconies above, you can see why Cordova calls it a “non-monument.” Claudia Peña Salinas’s installation—composed of Cueyatl (2017), Tlaloc MNA (2018), Chalchiuhtlicue MNA (2018) and more—refers to and reinterprets archeological objects at the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. The layout is based on the mythical Aztec paradise of Tlacocan. Together, these artworks form provocative insights and interpretations of the architectural landscape and cultural heritage across Mesoamerica and offer tantalizing insights into the contemporary power of indigenous work. Pacha, Llaqta, Washichay: Indigenous Space, Modern Architecture, New Art will run at the Whitney through September 30, 2018.
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David Hammons' ghostly pier to rise in the Hudson after all

The skeletal recreation of Pier 52, an abandoned industrial shed that once jutted into the waters next to the High Line, will rise courtesy of the Whitney Museum, artist David Hammon, and a recent legislative victory in the New York State Senate. The pier was once a hub of for artistic intervention and under-the-radar sexual liberation, and Hammon has titled his “new” Pier 52 sculpture Day’s End after Gordon Matta Clark’s 1975 transformation of the building. The public piece was first announced in October of last year, and the Whitney has taken pains to avoid the mistakes of the adjacent Pier 55 by engaging with the local community boards at every step of the planning process. Complicating the sculpture’s installation has been the Hudson River Park Act, which established the Hudson River Park Trust’s stewardship of the waterfront and environmental protections for the river. Now, after the passage of legislation by New York State Senator Brad Hoylman yesterday (S8044A), the Hudson River Park Act has been amended to allow Day’s End to rise after all. While the Whitney will construct the stainless-steel sculpture offsite over a period of eight to 10 months and maintain the piece, the museum will be required to donate the sculpture to the Hudson River Park Trust under S8044A. While there are still regulatory hurdles to get over, Day’s End recently cleared a vote in the State Assembly and is likely to breeze to fabrication.
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Rendering LOL: How architects are absurdly using Calder sculptures

Why do so many architects use Alexander Calder sculptures in their renderings, even when the works have nothing to do with the institution or project depicted? The Calder Foundation has been tracking this phenomenon, and the results are featured in the slideshow above.  A new exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York explores mobiles—kinetic sculptures in which carefully balanced components reveal their own unique systems of movement—created by American sculptor Alexander Calder from 1930 until 1968, eight years before his death. Running through October 23, the exhibition features almost 40 sculptures, including three that served as models for possible architectural commissions. In addition, Alexander S. C. Rower, who is the sculptor’s grandson and head of the Calder Foundation, will bring one of three motorized maquettes Calder created as proposals for the 1939 New York World’s Fair to the Whitney later this summer for a temporary viewing and activation.
Other Calder works on display that were designed for architectural projects include Octopus and The Helices, both made in 1944 as part of a series of bronze works Calder envisioned as 40-foot monuments and created for an International Style architectural project proposed by Wallace K. Harrison. Interestingly, more recently, many well-established architects have used Calder’s works to illustrate renderings of their own designs, often without the Calder Foundation’s permission. OMA in particular apparently finds Calder’s sculptures perfect for its projects: It used his 1973 Crinkly with a Red Disc, actually in the collection of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, in Germany, in its rendering of the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow. The rendering for the firm’s Park Grove condos in Miami pilfered Calder’s 1973 Flamingo, which actually sits in Federal Plaza in Chicago, while the rendering for 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, D.C., by OMA and OLIN, features the same sculpture. Other architectural firms that favor Calder’s works in their renderings include Ateliers Jean Nouvel, whose 53 W. 53rd Street project in Manhattan features Calder’s 1961 Sumac, actually in a private collection. Shigeru Ban Architects used Calder’s 1971 The Eagle, now at the Seattle Art Museum, and his 1972 Trepied rouge et noir in renderings for, respectively, the Tainan Museum of Fine Arts in Taiwan and Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport in Japan. Renzo Piano Building Workshop (which designed The Whitney’s current home in Manhattan’s meatpacking district), Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SOM, and Studio Libeskind also find the display of Calder’s works an attractive way to promote their concepts. Calder’s works reside today in some major venues: In addition to the sculptures in Federal Plaza in Chicago and at the Seattle Art Museum, the home of his Five Swords is Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, N.Y. Asked about contemporary architects’ practice of borrowing—to put it politely—images of Calder’s works to illustrate their designs, Rower said that during the artist’s lifetime, Calder was friendly with Mies van der Rohe, Josep Lluís Sert, Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer and Wallace K. Harrison, and “frenemies” with Frank Lloyd Wright. As the first artist commissioned to make a public sculpture by the General Services Administration, he said Calder was “the obvious go-to for architects designing new buildings or plazas. Given this history, it comes as no surprise to me that, even today, he is the most prolific artist depicted in architectural renderings. His iconic vocabulary is instantly recognizable; thus, contemporary architects use his imagery to suggest the superior qualities of their projects.” “The genius of Calder’s work,” Rower added, “is that it transforms space—and our experience of it—in real time. While his great invention, the mobile, does this in an overt way—performing in front of us and literally embodying movement—Calder’s stabiles (stationary sculptures) imply movement and affect how we encounter surrounding plazas, facades or even natural landscapes. Architects intuitively understand that effect, and are excited by the prospect of how a Calder sculpture can deepen the experience of whatever space they are designing.” “As long as it’s done in a respectful way,” Rower admitted that rendering actual Calder works that have not been manipulated “is gratifying. I’m interested in Calder’s works in architectural mock-ups—allowing me to imagine his sculptures in many different settings and contexts. And it’s rewarding that Calder remains a favorite amongst architects.”
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Extensive Alexander Calder exhibition now on display at the Whitney Museum

An extensive exhibition featuring works by Alexander Calder, who renowned for the use of kinetic movement in sculpture, is now on display at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition, Calder: Hypermobility, offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience the artist’s works as they were meant to be—in motion. Previously, the dynamic pieces of art were thought to be difficult to show in museums and were often left static. The moving pieces of artworks are motorized and wind-propelled, creating a choreography of rotations and unpredictable movements. Some of Calder’s earliest works are on display, including his early motor-driven abstractions and wall panels with suspended active elements, as well as other major examples from his later years. While people could actually touch Calder’s works themselves during his lifetime, the sculptures at this exhibition can only be set in motion by ‘activators,’ people who are trained to handle the delicate pieces. There’s an intrinsic relationship between the art and the city that only a location at the Whitney can offer. The exhibition space on the eighth floor of the Whitney Museum, where the works are on display, opens up to the city and creates a connection between the city and the gallery space. “This is a show that can only happen in New York,” Jay Sanders, curator of performance at the Whitney, said at the press preview, adding that the exhibition exaggerates the inter-relation between the urban bustle and the artist’s works. “Calder’s works is a wonderful hinge between these realities.” In addition to the gallery display, there will also be a series of performances, concerts, screenings, and episodic, one-time demonstrations led by the Calder Foundation. These contemporary artists will work in dialogue with Calder’s works. Calder: Hypermobility is on view from June 9 to October 23, 2017, at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
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Whitney announces exhibition on immersive cinema and art

The Whitney Museum of American Art's upcoming Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 will chronicle the ever-evolving world of cinema. Dreamlands, running October 28, 2016 to February 5, 2017, will traces film's evolution across its lifetime, exploring how filmmakers and artists have disassembled and reassembled cinema to create a range of “experiences of the moving image,” as a press release said. The featured artworks will include installations, drawings, 3-D environments, sculpture, performance, painting, and more. The works will be primarily from American filmmakers and artists but some influential 1920s German pieces will also be display. The numerous filmmakers and artists featured will include: Walt Disney, Frances Bodomo, Bruce Conner, Alex Da Corte, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Liam Gillick, Syd Mead, Mathias Poledna, Oskar Schlemmer, Hito Steyerl, and Stan VanDerBeek. The exhibition will consist of three different parts, each  showcasing distinct periods of film's technological evolution from the early 1900s to present-day. The earlier works capture a period of experimentation from 1905 to the 1930s when “sweeping camera shots, abstraction, color, music, and kaleidoscopic space were used to create what [film historian] Tom Gunning has called a ‘cinema of attractions.’” The next part of the exhibition displays work from the 1940s to 1980s. Included in this large breadth is CROSSROADS, Bruce Conner’s 1976 short film capturing the July 25, 1946 Operation Crossroads Baker underwater nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific; Destruct Film, a 1967 projective installation by Jud Yalkut which uses the projected light as a sculptural material; and production design paintings for Syd Mead’s 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner. Lastly, the period from the 1990s to present-day exhibit a highly diverse collection of works that demonstrate the introduction and incorporation of more advanced technologies such as touch screen and "virtual space." Also on display will be Factory of the Sun, an installation by Hito Steyerl, originally created for the German Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale.    
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Renzo Piano’s Whitney is an architectural “tourist trap”

When the new Whitney Museum of American Art opened on Manhattan’s West Side a little over a year ago, critical reactions were mixed. Like the majority of contemporary commentary, much of the critique was aimed at the outside of the building. There was also praise for an interior that defers to the art and a bit of positivity about the views. Some gushed about how daring it was for a building to physically engage with its surroundings at ground level.

However, a year after the initial “wait and see,” it is time to call the Renzo Piano–designed Whitney building what it really is: An architectural tourist trap. It is the conceptual built equivalent of Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar (GAKB) in Times Square.

What does a tourist trap do? Like any good tourist trap, the Whitney relies too much on its surroundings. The site at the apex of the High Line along the Hudson River is one of the best in the city. An architect would have to try hard to not have great views. Putting a few couches along floor-to-ceiling windows is not a world-class experience—most locals can get sixth-floor views from a friend’s roof or balcony. Like GAKB in Times Square, the Whitney has such a good location for its purpose that it doesn’t actually need to do anything to attract visitors. It is just there, housing an awkward collection of early modern art—good Hoppers and mediocre Ruschas.

Because it is a tourist trap, it also doesn’t need to inspire anyone to come back. What about this museum makes us want to visit again? We come for Piano, much like diners come for Guy. At GAKB, there is not decadent, diner-inspired food, only limp lettuce and uninspiring Caesar dressing. At the Whitney, where are Piano’s poetic details? Where is the tectonic novelty? What happened to the inventive, integrated systems and materials? The Whitney is all of the bad things about Piano’s work: It is washed-out and soulless, without any of the Piano magic. How can we connect to it?

The outdoor spaces seem arbitrarily proportioned and like afterthoughts. We might find the under-designed railings at an institutional building or a second-rate theme park. The oft-heard excuse is that this is part of the industrial heritage of the site, and is meant to evoke being on a fire escape. Yes, beloved industrial buildings and fire escapes have fine characteristics—materiality, the patina and layers of time, spatial experiences with compression, release, and difficult corners, and odd juxtapositions of railings and stairs—the Whitney has none of these. Instead, it is all out of scale, sterile, and unengaging.

The tourist trap analogy is not one of immediate political context. Yes, many of the visitors to the Whitney are tourists. But the point is that the building has nothing to offer beyond its celebrity status.

Deferring to the art is not an excuse. What if the Four Seasons had “deferred” to the food? What if the Ford Foundation had “deferred” to people working? An off-the-shelf metal shed can do a fine job protecting farm equipment, but isn’t the landscape better off with some actual design? The condos on the Williamsburg waterfront are amazing places to hang out, cook, and enjoy the views. It doesn’t mean they are great architecture.

Connecting with the city and functioning properly should be baseline requirements of a building, not something to hold up as great architecture. We should demand more exciting design and value it as part of the gesamtkunstwerk of a museum: art, architecture, and city in harmony to create a place, as well as an experience. Manhattan already has a problem with stale homogeneity; we need to demand that architects and clients not contribute to it. After all, no one ever said it was form or function.

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Archtober Building of the Day 20> Renzo Piano's Whitney Museum of American Art

Whitney Museum of American Art 99 Gansevoort Street, Manhattan Renzo Piano Building Workshop in collaboration with Cooper Robertson When the Whitney Museum made the move from its iconic Breuer Building to a new location in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, the institution was “returning to our downtown roots,” Larissa Gentile, New Building Project Director for the Whitney, told today’s Archtober Building of the Day Tour attendees. The museum’s shiny new steel-clad, Renzo Piano–designed building, which opened in May, is situated between two linear parks running through Manhattan. Piano conceived of the building as a link between the High Line, just east of the museum, and Hudson River Park, just west. Visitors to the Whitney never feel far from either of these green spaces—on each of the eight floors of the museum, strategically located windows frame scenes of the Hudson River and out onto the city skyline. The interplay between interior and exterior is a defining element of the new Whitney. Gentile described the institution and the architect’s intentions for the building to engage in a dialogue with its urban context. The building has eastward-facing terraces on each level of the museum, connected by an outdoor staircase. These “outdoor galleries” not only give museum-goers iconic views of stretching across Manhattan, but also allows those strolling down the High Line, or driving down the West Side Highway, an opportunity to see some of the museum’s impressive collection. The exterior staircase allows visitors to move between gallery floors outside, so as to alleviate some internal circulation issues that might arise given the museum’s record-breaking number of visitors. On the ground level, the museum lobby is a porous and open glass space, meant to feel like an extension of the pedestrian streetscape. Passersby glimpse what is going on in the museum—indeed, today, although the museum was closed to the public, people walking by were privy to the installation process of the new Frank Stella exhibition underway. “Exposing the machine of building, and revealing the institution as an entire organism, was an exciting opportunity for the museum,” Gentile told us. Throughout the building, staff offices, research spaces, conservation labs, and educational facilities, that, in the old building, were either non-existent or tucked away, are now revealed to museum-goers. The new Whitney has greatly increased gallery space. Each gallery was designed to be column-free and highly flexible, so as to allow curators and artists to reimagine the space with every show. The gallery size and ceiling height varies from floor to floor, giving the museum a distinctly different feel as you travel throughout it. The top floor gallery is bathed in natural light from a skylight above. Some galleries are much more intimate, displaying smaller paintings and works on paper, while more spacious areas of the museum house impressive sculptures and installations. In addition to adding more gallery space for the museum to display its 22,000-object permanent collection and creating new educational and conservation facilities, the new, soon-to-be certified LEED Gold museum building also houses a flexible theater space with multiple projection options, and retractable seating, allowing the museum to host lectures, performances, and installations. As Gentile told our tour, “No space here has one function.” The highly mutable building provides the opportunity for the institution and visitors alike to engage intimately with both the cultural and urban milieus this city has to offer. Alex Tell is the Committee's Coordinator for the AIANY | Center for Architecture.
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Renzo Piano designs a handbag replica of his new Whitney Museum of American Art

The new Whitney Museum of American Art is opening on Friday, May 1. (Get your sneak peek inside the museum over here!) But a whopping 28,000 ton museum isn't the only thing Renzo Piano has up his sleeve—he's also designed the must-have fashion accessory with which to be seen browsing art at Manhattan's newest Meatpacking District hotspot. Behold, the "Whitney Bag." The handbag was officially unveiled last week at a star-studded event atop the Standard hotel, which features sweeping views of the new Whitney. The limited edition bag is being launched in conjunction with the opening of the museum, and Renzo Piano collaborated on the bag's design with MaxMara creative director Ian Griffiths. Staying true to his design ethos, Piano's first handbag features clean lines and distinct detailing. In an interview with MaxMara, Piano said the purse design is directly linked to the building. "The initial idea was very clear right from the start: our aim was to apply one of the most characteristic elements of the museum project – the facade—to the bag: hence the idea of the modular strips enveloping the exterior," Piano said. Griffiths told NY Mag's The Cut blog at the launch, "I just hope that in 20 years' time, the bag is as much of an icon as this building." Piano added that the Whitney Bag would likely remain his only handbag design. "This is our first such experience, and I believe it will remain the only one," he said. "We decided to take up the proposal by Max Mara because it was closely connected to the Whitney Museum of American Art and its upcoming opening to the public, and also with the intention of dedicating the profits to the Renzo Piano Foundation to finance its cultural and educational projects." The Whitney Bag will be available in two sizes and four colors, but only 250 of the signature grey-blue bag inspired by the color of the museum are being made (and are reportedly sold out).
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Pictorial> Here's your first glimpse inside Renzo Piano's new Whitney Museum

On May 1, the southern terminus of the High Line will have a true anchor tenant. Renzo Piano's towering new Whitney Museum for American Art will throw open its glass doors—or at least unlock the revolving ones—as tourists and eager New Yorkers alike throng in for a look around the highly anticipated gallery spaces. Until then, here's a peek at the the museum, inside and out, from a press junket on Thursday. Inside, a lobby space clad on three sides in a crystal-clear glass curtain wall fills the museum with natural light. The museum's restaurant, Untitled, and its gift store flow seamlessly through the space. Elevators whisk visitors to the galleries above. At the top, a series of skylights diffuse light into gallery spaces and a large outdoor terrace extends from another cafe. A series of highly detailed catwalks provides views of the High Line, New York's skyline, and the museum itself. The overlapping outdoor spaces connected by stairways will surely be a highlight of many high-design soirees in years to come. Moving through the galleries, the museum's white walls and grey metal grids are contrasted with a light natural wood floor. An internal stairway featuring a waterfall of cascading light bulbs guides visitors down through the museum. Take a look at the gallery below for a look of AN's tour through the Whitney on Thursday. Watch for your next print issue of The Architect's Newspaper, where we'll publish our full critique of the museum and delve into its history. [All images by Branden Klayko / AN.]