The new Whitney Museum of American Art may not officially open to the public until 1 May, but VIPs have had ample opportunity to sneak a peek this week. And the buzz is reaching a fever pitch. In an early review, the New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman described the Meatpacking District facility as “an implicit extension of the High Line—a perch to see and be seen”. Advance reservations to visit the museum on 2 May have already sold out, more than a week before the official opening.
At a black tie dinner for donors on Monday, 20 April, guests included the talk show host Charlie Rose, the art collector and cosmetics tycoon Leonard Lauder, and the artists Chuck Close, Jasper Johns and Glenn Ligon, who has a neon work hanging in the museum’s fifth floor window. The former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, told the crowd that if someone had told him when he moved to New York in the 1960s that he would be spending his evening on Gansevoort Street, “I’d have guessed I’d have ended up in the meatpacking business.” The celebrations are scheduled to continue with a late-night party at the 200,000 sq. ft, Renzo Piano-designed building on Friday, 25 April.
To be sure, the construction of a major museum in New York is a once-in-a-decade event. (And the Whitney has been planning this $422m building, which boasts sweeping views of the skyline and the Hudson River, since 2008.) But if the carefully orchestrated calendar of events designed to build positive buzz threatens to eclipse the more than 600 works on view in the inaugural exhibition, America Is Hard to See (1 May-27 September), do not tell the curators.
“I am most excited about what artists will want do in this space,” the Whitney’s chief curator Donna De Salvo told The Art Newspaper on a tour in March, when the museum was mid-install. “Some performer is going to want to do something with the stairs, or with the angles of the building. These are spaces you won’t find anywhere else.”