Michael Gross Suggests Novel Scheme for Whitney’s Breuer Building

As the Whitney Museum of American Art prepares to break ground on its new, Renzo Piano-designed home in the Meatpacking District, there is a giant question mark hovering over the museum’s handsome Marcel Breuer flagship. The Brutalist landmark is coveted by the nearby Metropolitan Museum of Art as a swell satellite exhibition space, and talks are reportedly ongoing. In the meantime, The Art Newspaper invited a few experts to offer suggestions for the old building’s fate once the Whitney decamps downtown in a few years. For David Ross, director of the museum from 1991 to 1998, it “must be retained as a not-for-profit space for the public presentation of art,” while Terence Riley, a veteran museum administrator and architect who worked for Breuer, notes that the “great, grey” building and its less than flexible layout is ideally suited to house a permanent collection rather than act as a kunsthalle. Museum muckracker Michael Gross, author of Rogue’s Gallery, offers the most creative and complete vision:

It could be transformed into a Museum of Cultural Philanthropy, telling the story of the men and women who collectively created New York’s great institutions of art, music, and learning. Imagine if the Metropolitan Museum began releasing its archives concerning donors from J.P. Morgan to the two grand Charleses, Engelhard and Wrightsman, the Opera its papers concerning Otto Kahn and Sid Bass, Carnegie Hall its archives from Andrew C to Sandy Weill and Ronald Perelman, the New York Public Library its whole record of the negotiations with Steve Schwartzman for “his” building, and etc. It’ll never happen, of course, since as Philippe de Montebello told me (with a straight face) institutions like these “have no secrets,” but a boy can dream dreams of transparency even in a realm of studied opacity, can’t he?

Previously on UnBeige:

  • Whitney to Break Ground on Downtown Outpost Next Spring
  • Michael Gross On the Met’s Reaction to Rogue’s Gallery
  • Jenny Holzer-ified Sneakers to Benefit Whitney Museum
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