Whitney Museum of American Art

My wife and I visited the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York this weekend. Formerly located on the Upper East Side, the Whitney moved to its new location in the Meatpacking District in May of 2015. The museum is situated at the southern end of the High Line, a hugely popular outdoor park built atop an elevated section of abandoned  railway. This whole area of Manhattan has blown up (in a good way) over the past decade and the Whitney’s opening has added fuel to the fire.

The Whitney Museum viewed from the High Line

The Whitney Museum viewed from the High Line

Even if there was no art in the museum, the building itself, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, would still be worth seeing. Encased in glass and steel, the building looks like a modern naval ship from certain angles, or a really slick looking power plant. There are a series of terraces linked by outdoor staircases that zig-zag up to the eighth floor from the biggest terrace on the fifth (or sixth). On the eighth floor, there are is a cafe called Studio Cafe, which offers a lot of outdoor seating on the terrace. It’s sister restaurant, called Untitled, is on the first floor.

Whitney Museum of American art

Outdoor staircases

We got a private tour of the exhibitions before the museum opened its doors to the public. Our guide first showed us the gallery containing paintings by Archibald Motley (1891-1981), an African-American jazz-age painter. I’m not a big art aficionado so have to admit I hadn’t heard of Motley, but his works were really impressive and documented an era of great interest to me. The other exhibition we saw was a huge collection of Frank Stella paintings and sculptures, and other colorful works of art, many of them taking up entire walls. Many (all?) of Whitney’s internal walls are not load-bearing, giving the curators the ability to modify the museum’s wall space in ways they see fit for each artist. Stella worked personally with the Whitney to design, so to speak, the way the walls would be arranged for his exhibition.

Work by Frank Stella

Work by Frank Stella

At 1030, the elevators began ferrying passengers up from the first floor, and soon the floors were crowded with visitors. Our private tour continued, but our guide’s audience grew exponentially as a result of the boldness of several visitors, adorned in Lower Manhattan black, who inserted themselves into our group to listen to what she had to say It didn’t bother me, I just thought it was funny how some people thought it was perfectly normal to budge their way into our group.

Frank Stella Moby Dick

Frank Stella

Anyway, be prepared for big crowds due to the museum’s newness and buzz. The elevators don’t seem to be big enough to accommodate the hundreds of visitors who roam the museum during peak hours.

Afterwards, we moved down to the permanent collections, seeing the works of Edward Hopper, George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, and too many others to name. I’m not going to go through all the artists, but you get the idea.

Whitney Museum roof

View down Gansevoort Street in NYC’s Meatpacking District

We had lunch at the first-floor Untitled, a super trendy spot facing Gansevoort Street and the massive line that juts out from the front door.

View of the High Line and Washington Street

View of the High Line and Washington Street

If you’re planning on making a trip to the Whitney, here is some helpful information:

  • Admission: $22 for adults, $18 for seniors and students, free for children under 18 yrs.
    • Tickets can be purchased online and I advise you to do so by reserving a time in advance
    • The museum offers free daily tours of certain exhibitions and collections. Check the website for dates/times.
  • Parking: I was coming in from NJ so had to park my car somewhere. I used the lot on the corner for 16th Street and 9th Avenue. I booked the spot and settled on the price in advance using the Park Whiz app. $35 for 4 hours. Expensive but for that area of NYC it was reasonable.
  • Exhibition periods: Archibald Motley (ends January 17, 2016); Franke Stella (ends February 7, 2016)

Kevin is based in Washington, DC and writes about his travel adventures in the Mid-Atlantic region and around the world. Through entertaining writing and eye-catching photography, he aims to provide readers with useful information as they plan their next trips.

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