Three years after breaking ground on its new eight-story Renzo Piano-designed building on Washington and Gansevoort streets, the Whitney Museum is ready to announce the exhibition schedule for its inaugural year. Donning hard hats and mingling in a still-raw space that would eventually be the museum cafe, Whitney director Adam Weinberg and curators Donna De Salvo, Jay Sanders, Scott Rothkopf and others were on hand yesterday to, as De Salvo put it, “give some curatorial texture to our first year.”
The eight-story structure, clad in ribbonlike panels of steel whose subtle blue tone is meant to respond to the color of the sky, will have 50,000 square feet of internal exhibition space, plus several outdoor terrace galleries, a conservation lab, two theaters and a works on paper study center, as well as elevator interiors designed by the late Richard Artschwager. With a view of the southern end of the High Line below, the spacious top-floor terrace was the most popular spot during Thursday’s event. If you stand in the right spot, you can just spot Julian Schnabel’s hot pink Palazzo Chupi poking out of the downtown skyline.
The Whitney’s first downtown show, opening in spring 2015, will be a museum-wide chronological reinstallation of the permanent collection, curated by Carter Foster, Dana Miller, Rothkopf and De Salvo. The fall 2015/winter 2016 schedule includes a survey of the under-known Harlem Renaissance painter Archibald Motley and a Frank Stella retrospective. Stella’s sculptures, reliefs, paintings and drawings will be installed on the museum’s 5th floor, an 18,000-square-foot column-free space. Other 2016 exhibitions include selections from Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner’s collection, examples of which have been promised to the Whitney; work by documentary filmmaker/journalist Laura Poitras, best known for her recent collaboration with Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald; and a David Wojnarowicz retrospective.
Its current iteration on view uptown through May 25, the next Whitney Biennial would normally be scheduled to open in March 2016. However, De Salvo announced yesterday that the curators have decided to postpone the exhibition one year, to give themselves more time to get to know the new building.
While showing a group around the 6th floor galleries, which will be home to modern and contemporary work from the permanent collection, De Salvo commented on the way Piano’s materials, like reclaimed pine for the floors, and his “muscular yet elegant” ceiling designs will help slow visitors down and allow for more direct immersion with the art work. “Maybe it sounds old-fashioned, but I don’t care!”