The Whitney Museum of American Art has been a staple of the vibrant New York City arts scene for almost a century now. Originally founded as an outlet for artists who, in pushing the boundaries of their chosen fields, were encountering difficulties gaining an audience, the Whitney has a long history of showcasing some of the finest contemporary artists working in variety of mediums. This rich legacy continues today in the Whitney’s remarkable new building, which stands between the Hudson River and the High Line.
Whitney Museum of American Art History
The Whitney Museum of American Art owes its existence to the patronage of the wealthy heiress and sculptor, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. In the years before World War I, Whitney began throwing shows for struggling artists at her studio in Greenwich Village. Over the next couple decades, she acquired so many notable pieces by her contemporaries that she offered her personal collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When they turned down the offer, she founded her own institution in 1930.
The Whitney Museum of Art has occupied multiple sites in its time. Its original facility was located near Fifth Avenue on West Eighth Street. From 1954 to 1963, the Whitney was housed in a building on West 54th Street. The Whitney would then occupy a striking structure designed by the legendary architect Marcel Breuer for roughly 50 years, before moving to yet-another new home in 2015. This location, designed by Renzo Piano, is prominently situated near the Hudson River and the High Line, and attracts over a million visitors each year.
What’s at the Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney Museum of American Art possesses a permanent collection numbering approximately 25,000 pieces by nearly 4,000 distinct artists, all of whom lived and worked in twentieth and/or twenty-first centuries. There’s something here for all sorts of contemporary art lovers, but highlights would have to include work by such acclaimed artists as Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Cindy Sherman, Louise Bourgeois, Frank Stella, and Georgia O’Keeffe, to name but a few.
The Whitney is always sponsoring cutting-edge shows and hosting special events, but perhaps none carries as much weight as its iconic Biennial. First hosted in 1932, the Whitney Biennial is considered the longest-running survey of American art in the United States. Every two years it gathers together a who’s who of evocative work by living artists to showcase some of the most compelling art on the market today.
Visitors to the Whitney interested in procuring something to eat during their time at the museum have two choices. Located on the ground floor, the Whitney Café is the museum’s casual, grab-and-go option. It serves a limited menu of sandwiches, salads, and soups, alongside coffee, tea, bar, and wine. Whitney’s Studio Bar can be found on the eighth floor of the museum. The Studio Bar has indoor and outdoor seating with lovely views of New York City, and a menu heavy on appetizers, classic cocktails, and small plates.
If you enjoy a quality museum store, then you’ll love the Whitney’s gift shop. There you’ll find exhibition catalogues, prints, posters, accessories, books, jewelry, ceramics, tableware, and more. You can even pick up an assortment of high-end art supplies perfect for the artist in your life.
Tips for Visiting the Whitney Museum of American Art
- The Whitney Museum of American Art is included on several money saving tourist passes including the New York Pass, NY Explorer Pass and NY Sightseeing Pass.
- The Whitney Museum of American Art is located just steps away from the High Line, New York City’s popular green space. You could do a lot worse than plan an afternoon outing that sees you explore the Whitney until your heart’s content, then stroll the High Line as you discuss the many stimulating artistic works you just witnessed.
- A popular feature of the Whitney is its pay-what-you-wish policy on Friday evenings, which lets you enter the museum at whatever price you are able to pay. If you’re intrigued by this promotion, and think you might want to take advantage of it, be advised: it’s strongly recommended that you acquire advance tickets for this time slot.
- Parking in Manhattan is never all that much fun, but there are several parking garages close to the Whitney. If you plan to drive to the museum, they recommend you go with one of three parking facilities found at either 99 Jane Street, 134 Jane Street, or 385 West 15th Street. It’s also easy to get to the museum via public transportation or bicycle.
- If you plan to bike to the museum, there are bike racks available for your use directly in front of the museum’s entrance.