The most important thing we can do in a challenging time like the present is look ahead with optimism. Nothing could be more hopeful than following where art and artists lead us. This is the credo of the Whitney Museum of American Art. We are deeply focused on the creation of another great Whitney building downtown. We’re moving ahead carefully with plans for its construction in the Meatpacking District. There, we hope to provide a cultural anchor for the neighborhood and for the recently opened High Line.
The new building, designed by Renzo Piano, will provide long-awaited opportunities for us to show more of our great collection of 20th- and 21st-century American art and will offer desperately needed space for performances, lectures, panels, and other public programs. We’ll engage directly a bustling community of artists, gallerists, students, educators, entrepreneurs, and residents in Chelsea and Greenwich Village. Of course, the Whitney Museum was founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1930 in the Village, so we are returning to our roots, so to speak.
We believe the new building will be a work of great architectural imagination that will enable the Whitney to contribute to the neighborhood and to the city for many years to come. Our process for designing this building is inside-out: instead of looking at a site and figuring out the maximum envelope, we are thinking about uses. This building is about art first, program first. Working with our staff; we are deciding—imagining—what our museum needs in order to be an important force within 21st-century art.
Any true neighborhood has to have a balance of forces within it, but it is culture that becomes an anchor to a neighborhood and provides a sense of permanence. As Renzo Piano says, museums are about duration, things that are longstanding—commitment, roots, community. You can go there
and always find something that will stimulate your eyes, mind, and heart.