The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art have announced an eight-year agreement to share the Whitney’s Marcel Breuer-designed building. The arrangement, with an option to renew, is expected to begin in 2015, when the Whitney opens its new facility in the Meatpacking District; the museum will break ground on the downtown site, at the terminus of the High Line, on May 24. The 200,000-square-foot facility is being designed by Renzo Piano.
The Metropolitan plans to present exhibitions, lectures and gallery tours focusing on both contemporary and historical art in a global context. The two museums plan to share collections and to jointly produce catalogues and educational activities. As part of the agreement, the Met will provide such visitor amenities as a café and museum shop. The Whitney will continue to use some space for art storage. Several site-specific works, such as Charles Simonds’s miniature clay dwellings in a stairwell, will remain in place.
In a press statement, Metropolitan director Thomas P. Campbell said that the joint agreement “does not mean that we are taking modern and contemporary art out of the Met’s Main Building, but it does open up the possibility of having space to exhibit these collections in the event that we decide to rebuild the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing where they are currently shown.”
Several schemes by the Whitney to expand its original building were quashed for being too expensive or too outlandish for the Upper East Side neighborhood. The various plans—by Norman Foster, Michael Graves, Rem Koolhaas, Renzo Piano-also met with community opposition.
In 2010 the Whitney sold a row of six adjacent brownstones and two townhouses in preparation for the Piano expansion, before the board decided that a relocation was preferable. The move to downtown is actually a return to the museum’s roots, since the institution was founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in the West Village, blocks from its future home. It relocated to W. 54th Street in 1954 before opening the Breuer building on Madison Avenue in 1966.