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Open All Night But Closed For Now: The Last Few Hours of the Whitney’s Breuer Building

Photo by Ezra Stoller, COURTESY EZRA STOLLER/ESTO

The Whitney’s former uptown location.

EZRA STOLLER/COURTESY EZRA STOLLER AND ESTO

By 3:30 a.m. Sunday, the controversy surrounding the graffiti attack on the fourth-floor wall of the Whitney’s “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective” had died down, but the 36-hour marathon ending of the exhibition was still going strong. Buzzing like an all-night diner, a hundred or so insomniacs in various states of lucidity took one last look at the exhibition, and also said goodbye to the Whitney’s Breuer Building, the museum’s home for nearly 40 years, which as of Monday morning is closed to the public in preparation for the Metropolitan Museum of Art to move in next year once the Whitney finishes its own move downtown.

Historic night besides, most visitors seemed more concerned with taking selfies in the reflective surfaces of Koons’s sculpture. These selfies were no different or more original than the selfies people have been taking in the exhibition for the past several months, but hey, who doesn’t want to jump off the same bridge that everyone else is jumping off of?

“Do you want the filter or no filter?” a woman asked two men as they posed in front of Koons’s The New (1980). “No filter. We need this shit raw, we need it raw,” replied one of the men, decked out in a baseball cap and camouflage jacket, before explaining that, when it comes to Instagram, “it’s all about the angles.”

Flecks of dust from 36-hours worth of attendees covered the ground and surrounded the work, which made the galleries feel more like a Kmart clearance section than a museum. When asked about the mess, a security guard plainly stated that the exhibition and museum were both closing tomorrow. So: why bother?

A trio of sportswear-clad club kids camped out on the floor in front of Gorilla (2006–12)—an enormous statue of the animal, libidinally beating its chest—didn’t seem to mind. They were playing gabber music through laptop speakers and charging their mobile devices. The adjacent security guard did his best to ignore them.

But elsewhere, the night’s proceedings were clearly beginning to wear thin. “I’m done,” another security guard said, standing in front of the racy Woman in Tub (1988)—a sculpture of a euphoric nude bather with her head cut off just below the eyes. “I’m so done here,” she laughed. “I’m gonna go home and have a good night’s—no, a good morning’s sleep.”

Directly outside of the Whitney, three men drank large Corona bottles out of plastic bags and attempted to do pull-ups on a construction bar. One of them yelled “performance piece” as his buddy filmed him on a smartphone. As Koons himself has said, art is all about your potential.

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