Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business

Touring the New Whitney Museum, Renzo Piano’s Clever Downtown Home for Art

Next week, the Whitney Museum of American Art opens its new 200,000-square-foot Renzo Piano-designed building in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. The much anticipated structure, set along a string of modern architectural masterpieces dotting the High Line park, has received mixed reviews from critics. Here is a photographic tour of the building and the art inside. Photographs by Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
A View From the Street
A View From the Street
Given Piano’s propensity for large, colorful buildings (think the Centre Pompidou, which he also designed), the Whitney’s exterior is surprisingly muted. Its asymmetrical roof and slightly cluttered lines aren’t in keeping with the rest of the neighborhood, true, but the building seems to announce itself softly, giving a nod to the industrial nature of the area.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
America Is Hard to See
America Is Hard to See
Works by Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly are on view as part of the inaugural exhibition, America Is Hard to See.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
Works on Paper
Works on Paper
While much of the museum is given over to vast, open gallery space, there are small idylls and places to rest.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
A (Mostly) Clean Space
A (Mostly) Clean Space
The interior follows the well-worn playbook of virtually every contemporary gallery on the planet: nice wood floors, long white walls, and discreet lighting—an ideal environment, one imagines, for exhibiting practically any kind of artwork conceivable, like this hanging Eva Hesse.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
Sunset
Sunset
Whereas the old Whitney was a bunker—literally separated from Madison Avenue by a moat—the new building is so porous that at times it feels like New York itself is on permanent exhibition. Most of the museum’s floors have at least one outdoor space, including more than 13,000 square feet of terraces and balconies. Here, one terrace showcases Sunset, a site-specific installation by Mary Heilemann.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
The Rose
The Rose
Sure to appear on an Instagram account near you: Jay DeFeo’s The Rose.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
A View of the Hudson River
A View of the Hudson River
A cafe on the upper floors offers a bit of respite (and a view) for visitors.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
Airspace
Airspace
Voluminous galleries allow large-scale works, like this Donald Judd, room to breathe.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
The High Line Park
The High Line Park
Whether you’ll like the new building depends entirely on what you want out of a museum. If you’re looking for a windowless jewel box where the art is the only star, you might not be a fan. If, however, you acknowledge that the majority of today’s museum visitors are there as part of a broader tour of the city, then this is the building for you. (Here, an edgy work by artist Glenn Ligon will be viewable from outside the building.)
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
Untitled (We Don’t Need Another Hero)
Untitled (We Don’t Need Another Hero)
A Barbara Kruger billboard decorates a wall that’s been papered with a repeated work by Donald Moffett, as part of the exhibit I, You, We. This room showcases works from the permanent collection that look back at the art of the 1980s and early ’90s.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
A River View
A River View
Sometimes, glimpses of the Hudson River can be fleeting (or blinding). And sometimes they hold art as well, like this sculpture by John Storrs.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
The View From the High Line
The View From the High Line
The museum will be a natural stop for visitors walking the length of Manhattan’s superpopular High Line park.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
Stair Installation
Stair Installation
Floors are connected by elevators, as well as a network of internal and external stairs. An installation by Felix Gonzalez-Torres provides the illumination.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
Exterior View
Exterior View
For the more adventurous visitor, the external stairs can give a little bit of a rush.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
America
America
Another work by Glenn Ligon is viewable from a dark internal gallery.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
Sculpture Garden
Sculpture Garden
A view up to the roof terrace, which houses David Smith sculptures.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
The Ground Floor
The Ground Floor
On the ground floor, there’s an indoor/outdoor plaza underneath a cantilevered section of the museum. It’s not a serene place—you’re hemmed in by the West Side Highway, Gansevoort Street, and Washington Street—but it will undoubtedly become an instant hit among footsore visitors looking for a place to sit down.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
Giant Fagends
Giant Fagends
The fifth floor houses the largest gallery in the building: an 18,000-square-foot, column-free space, which is reserved for temporary exhibitions. Visitors touring the present exhibit will note that they’re virtually at eye level with the High Line. Here, Claes Oldenburg’s Giant Fagends dominates the room, as does that Lego-looking family by Marisol.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
A View to the City
A View to the City
While the Hudson River is right nearby, many of the views from inside the building and the terraces are angled back toward the city, bringing the urban environment into the art experience. That chair-like sculpture is by Scott Burton.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
Temporary Exhibitions
Temporary Exhibitions
More works from America Is Hard to See. In the foreground, a human-sized sculpture by Charles Ray.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business
View from the West Side Highway
View from the West Side Highway
The museum seems to fit contextually with the nearby Standard hotel, but still remains distinct from the brick and cobblestone neighborhood.
Photographer: Taylor Jewell/Bloomberg Business