If you’re seeking the most iconic collection of American Paintings in New York City, you want to visit the Whitney Museum(opens in a new tab). With over 600 works in its permanent collections, representing artists ranging from Mark Rothko to Andy Warhol, the Whitney is definitely high on the list of places to see in New York. It’s also nestled in the heart of the Meatpacking District, so you can easily follow up a visit with a walk on The High Line and food from Chelsea Market(opens in a new tab).
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt II) was an avid art collector. She had a special interest in American artists such as Edward Hopper and Max Weber. In 1929, Gertrude had amassed close to 700 works of American art, which she wanted to donate to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But the Met declined the gift! Legend is, at the time, the Met only valued European art, deeming American painters inferior. So, Gertrude decided to open up her own museum(opens in a new tab) dedicated entirely to showing off the works of famous American Artists. Thus, the Whitney Museum of American Art was born.
Finding a Home
The Whitney has moved locations several times. It began in the converted row house at 8 West 8th street. In 1954, it moved to a small space on 54th street, and was actually connected to the MoMA. In 1966, it moved to the Upper East Side, in a distinctly modern building on Madison Avenue and 75th Street. In 2015, the museum finally moved to its current location(opens in a new tab) at the intersection of Gansevoort and Washington Streets where its famous American art now calls home. The building cost $422 million dollars and spans 200,00 square feet. Public figures such as Michelle Obama attended the building’s ribbon-cutting ceremony!
The Whitney Biennial
Sticking with the Whitney’s roots of promoting lesser-known artists, every two years the museum hosts the Whitney Biennial(opens in a new tab). The art show displays many up-and-coming artists new to the American art scene. The Whitney Biennial, which showcases paintings, sculptures, installations, films, video, audio, and performances, is the longest-running exhibition in the U.S. showcasing developments in American art. It is always a cause for celebration!