New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, known more commonly as ‘The Whitney’, moved this year from its home on the Upper East Side to a shiny new home in New York’s Meatpacking District, just adjacent to the High Line, and along the Hudson River.
The 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries and 13,000 square feet of outdoor exhibition space in its impressive series of terraces was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano (known for Paris’ Centre Pompidou, Rome’s Auditorium, Genoa’s Aquarium, Amsterdam’s Nemo Science Centre, New York’s New York Times Building, London’s Shard…)
In Piano’s own words: “The design for the new museum emerges equally from a close study of the Whitney’s needs and from a response to this remarkable site. We wanted to draw on its vitality and at the same time enhance its rich character. The first big gesture, then, is the cantilevered entrance, which transforms the area outside the building into a large, sheltered public space.”
“At this gathering place beneath the High Line, visitors will see through the building entrance and the large windows on the west side to the Hudson River beyond. Here, all at once, you have the water, the park, the powerful industrial structures and the exciting mix of people, brought together and focused by this new building and the experience of art.”
The new space is beautiful, with a soaring Atrium entry, lots of natural light, and multi-floor terraces with stunning views over the Hudson River, downtown, midtown and the High Line, to which the building is adjacent.
One of the highlights of the collection is George Bellows’ iconic painting ‘Dempsey and Firpo’ (1924) depicting the Prize Fight between American boxing champion Jack Dempsey and Argentinian Luis Angel Firpo on 14 September 1923 at New York City’s Polo Grounds. Bellows was a painter of the Ashcan School movement, and he had been sent by the New York Evening Journal to sketch the bout for its readers. Although Dempsey was favored and would go on to win, Bellows depicted the moment in which Firpo prevailed, knocking the American champion over the ropes.
Another iconic image – this a photo – housed in the Whitney will probably be familiar to most viewers: ‘Dovima with the Elephants’ (1955) by Richard Avedon. The photo was taken in Paris at the Cirque d’hiver, with Dovima, who was known as the first ‘supermodel’.
The dress she wears is the first one designed for Christian Dior by his young assistant, Yves Saint-Laurent. Avedon was thrilled with his model, but oddly was unhappy with this image – in particular the drape of the sash. Ironic, really, since it is one of his most recognizable images today.