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“The collection is the DNA of the institution,” director Adam Wienberg told press at a preview of the Whitney Museum’s new location last week.
The site may still be a year away from opening but the curatorial cogs are turning, with the exhibition program already in place for when it opens in 2015. The building, designed by Renzo Piano, will be the fourth home to house the museum’s permanent collection, and boasts 32,000-square-foot to exhibit it – three times as much space as the current Marcel Breuer building.
With so much room to play with, Weinberg had to admit that even he’s been witnessing “surprises” coming out of the collection of more than 20,000 works.
Donna De Salvo, the Whitney’s chief curator, took the opportunity to announce the dynamic exhibition schedule for next year. The inaugural show, spanning 60,000 square-feet, will present a thorough examination of 20th- and 21st-century art that is described by the museum as having “a distinctly Whitney narrative.” Featuring names that include Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman, Edward Hopper, and Willem de Kooning, the chronological overview will ask the question: what constitutes American art?
Also on the roster for 2015-16 is the first full-scale, solo show for Archibald Motley, whose rich narrative is a staple of the Harlem Renaissance period, a career retrospective of Frank Stella, and an exhibition of work by Laura Poitras, an artist, filmmaker and journalist.
Speaking against a sweeping backdrop of the Hudson River, De Salvo emphasized it was the curatorial vision that has driven the design of the space. With walls yet to be built, and wires still dangling, it seems the new building has already staked its claim of the High Line it resides over, and is re-establishing itself as a haven for American art.
“The Whitney museum is an idea, not a building,” said Weinberg. “We really see these as aspirational spaces for artists.”