Photographer: Connie Zhou/Bloomberg
Architecture

Inside Met Breuer Museum, NYC’s Newest Cultural Landmark

Yet another space for modern art opens in New York. Photography by Connie Zhou for Bloomberg

Once home to the Whitney Museum of American Art on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the imposing, bunker-like building on Madison Avenue has been leased to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and rechristened as the Met Breuer. The space will be dedicated to highlighting modern and contemporary artistic movements, along with their art-historical influences. It will open to the public on March 18.

  1. The Granite Exterior, Now With a Spot of Red
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    The Granite Exterior, Now With a Spot of Red

    Marcel Breuer, the building's architect and now its namesake (can you imagine the "Guggenheim Frank Lloyd Wright?"), was the youngest-ever furniture master at the Bauhaus School in Dessau, Germany. When the Nazis came to power, he moved briefly to the U.K., relocated to Cambridge, Mass., and then started an own, independent architectural practice in New York.

  2. The Horrible Retail Shop in the Lobby Is Gone
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    The Horrible Retail Shop in the Lobby Is Gone

    The building was restored by preservation architects Beyer Blinder Belle, who went to great lengths to maintain the patina of age that had settled over the building in recent years. Some welcome updates: Each of the lobby's lights was replaced with an LED, and there's a new central ticket desk.

  3. A Built-In Bookshelf on the Ticket Desk
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    A Built-In Bookshelf on the Ticket Desk

    The lobby seems to have received the most attention from the preservation architects—which makes sense, given that it's the most-traveled space in the building.

  4. Installation View, Nasreen Mohamedi Retrospective
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    Installation View, Nasreen Mohamedi Retrospective

    The Met Breuer will open with two exhibitions: a retrospective of 130 works of art by contemporary Indian artist Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990) and a group show, Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, which features 500 years of artworks left incomplete by their makers.

  5. 'Mirrors and Shelly Sand' by Robert Smithson
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    'Mirrors and Shelly Sand' by Robert Smithson

    Above, a work by sculptor Robert Smithson from 1969-1970 takes advantage of one of the building's few (albeit dramatic) windows.

  6. 'Unfinished Thoughts' Installation
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    'Unfinished Thoughts' Installation

    Infrequent visitors to the building might not notice anything glaringly new. The coffered concrete ceilings remain and the lovely bluestone floors remain unchanged.

    Above, a work by Perino del Vaga (Pietro Buonaccorsi), Holy Family With St. John The Baptist, 1528- 1530, left, and an unattributed statue, Pluto and Cerberus, from the mid-16th century.

  7. One of the Building's Loveliest Spaces
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    One of the Building's Loveliest Spaces

    Close inspection shows the lengths to which the architects went to update the space, from the cleaned granite stairs to the restored concrete walls.

  8. Well-Loved Patina
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    Well-Loved Patina

    Some nice touches remain: In this detail of the staircase railing, it's clear to visitors that they are entering a 50-year-old building.

  9. Cy Twombly Meets Pablo Picasso
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    Cy Twombly Meets Pablo Picasso

    The building's programming will be overseen by Sheena Wagstaff, chair of the Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. Above, Cy Twombly's Untitled I–VI (Green Paintings), ca. 1986 (left), hangs in contrast with Pablo Picasso's Head: Study for a Monument, from 1929. 

  10. A Reading Room on the Second Floor, With Mohamedi Artworks
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    A Reading Room on the Second Floor, With Mohamedi Artworks

    It's notable that the building's inaugural retrospective features a non-white woman. Under Wagstaff's direction, it would appear that the museum world will finally give some long-overlooked artists their due.

  11. The Breuer Building's Iconic Windows
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    The Breuer Building's Iconic Windows

    The old Whitney was never quite a hidden gem, so the building's repurposing from a place to look at American Art to a place to look at Art From All Over is sure to draw scrutiny and perhaps, outsized enthusiasm. Better check it out for yourself.