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The Whitney Museum announces inaugural year exhibitions for its new downtown home
Ellsworth Kelly, Atlantic, (1956). Oil on canvas, 80 1/8 x 115 5/16in. (203.5 x 292.9 cm. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase 57.9a b© Ellsworth Kelly.
NEW YORK, NY.- The Whitney Museum of American Art announced yesterday the first exhibitions to be presented in its new Renzo Piano–designed home on Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, scheduled to open its doors in spring 2015. The inaugural installation will be the largest display to date of the Whitney’s permanent collection, followed by exhibitions devoted to the work of Archibald Motley, Frank Stella, Laura Poitras, and David Wojnarowicz, as well as a show of hundreds of works gifted to the Whitney and the Centre Pompidou in Paris by Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner.

The inaugural exhibition presents a distinctly Whitney narrative drawn entirely from the Museum’s unparalleled permanent collection of 20th- and 21st-century American art. This ambitious display will offer new perspectives on art in the United States since 1900, following the Whitney’s in-depth analysis of its collection of more than 20,000 works, an initiative that has been underway since 2012. The opening presentation will fill over 60,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibition space, utilizing all galleries in the building, and it will celebrate the Whitney’s extraordinary new home and the richness of American art. The sweep of the collection is echoed in the building’s magnificent multiple perspectives: the new Whitney looks south toward the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, east into the city, and west across the Hudson toward the expanse of the country.

“The Whitney has been steadily building a remarkable world-class collection of American art since our founding by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1930, much of which has remained largely unseen,” said Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director. “This transformative moment—the opening of our beautiful new home downtown—calls for a fresh look at ourselves and is the perfect occasion for us to celebrate our collection, the essence of who we are.”

Led by Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs, a team of Whitney curators, including Carter Foster, Dana Miller, and Scott Rothkopf, has conducted an unprecedented study of the collection in consultation and debate with other members of the curatorial department as well as artists, curators, and scholars from a variety of fields. Throughout this process, the team has rediscovered forgotten works and figures that will be shown alongside the Museum’s iconic treasures in order to provide a challenging and revealing take on more than a century of art in the United States. This narrative will be propelled by a dynamic sense of invention and even conflict, as artists struggled to work within and against established conventions and often directly engaged their political and social contexts. Works of art across all mediums will be displayed together, acknowledging the important ways in which modern and contemporary artists have engaged various modes of production and broken the boundaries among them.

Donna De Salvo noted, “The new building is a game changer for the Whitney and, we hope, New York’s cultural landscape. Our program—a mix of exhibitions, screenings, performances, and permanent collection presentations—will demonstrate that while the Whitney remains committed to embracing the art of the present, it can now do so against the backdrop of over a hundred years of history. Our aim is to present history and artistic production as an open, rather than closed chapter.”

On the occasion of the opening of the new building, the Museum will publish an expanded handbook of the collection, its first since 2002, featuring 350 artists. A companion volume will explore the Whitney’s core philosophy through essays discussing the Museum’s history and the ongoing reinvention of its display strategies and changing definitions of American art in a global context.

Following is a list of selected exhibitions that will be presented during the Museum’s first year downtown:

Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist
Fall 2015/Winter 2016

Continuing its longstanding commitment to cultural diversity, the Whitney presents the first full-scale survey in two decades of the paintings of Archibald Motley (1891—1981), who was one of the most important figures associated with the Harlem Renaissance and is best known as both a master colorist and a radical interpreter of urban culture. The exhibition, organized by the Nasher Museum at Duke University and curated by Professor Richard J. Powell, will offer an unprecedented opportunity to carefully examine Motley’s dynamic depictions of modern life in his home town, Chicago, as well as in Jazz Age Paris and Mexico. Specifically, the exhibition will highlight Motley’s unique use of both expressionism and social realism and will resituate this underexposed artist within a broader, art historical context. At the Whitney, the installation will be overseen by Carter E. Foster, Steven and Ann Ames Curator of Drawing. It will be presented in the sky-lit galleries of the Museum’s eighth floor.

Frank Stella
Fall 2015/Winter 2016

The Museum will present a career retrospective of Frank Stella (b. 1936), one of the most important living American artists. This survey will be the most comprehensive presentation of Stella’s career to date, showcasing his prolific output from the mid-1950s to the present through approximately 120 works, including paintings, reliefs, maquettes, sculptures, and drawings. This exhibition, curated by Michael Auping, Chief Curator of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, with the involvement of Adam D. Weinberg, will feature Stella’s best-known works alongside rarely seen examples drawn from collections around the world. Accompanied by a scholarly publication, the exhibition will fill the Whitney's entire column-free fifth floor, an 18,000-square-foot gallery that is the Museum’s largest space for special exhibitions.

The Westreich/Wagner Collection
Fall 2015/Winter 2016

The noted collection of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner will be presented in this exhibition co-organized by the Whitney and the Centre Pompidou. Drawing on a promised gift of approximately 800 objects, more than 500 of which will enter the Whitney’s permanent collection—the remaining works are promised to the Pompidou—this show celebrates American and international art from the 1960s to the present day. Featuring renowned pieces by, among many others, Diane Arbus, Robert Gober, Jeff Koons, Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, and Christopher Wool, the exhibition will also include recent work by artists such as Liz Deschenes, Sam Lewitt, Laura Owens, and Frances Stark. A scholarly catalogue will accompany the show. Curated by the Whitney’s Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography Elisabeth Sussman and the Centre Pompidou’s Christine Macel, the exhibition will debut at the Whitney before traveling to the Pompidou in Paris.

Laura Poitras
Spring 2016

This exhibition, organized by Whitney curator Jay Sanders, will present the work of artist, filmmaker, and journalist Laura Poitras. Poitras will create an installation of immersive environments, using materials, footage, and information that build on themes she has been exploring in her filmmaking, including NSA surveillance and post-9/11 America. In addition, the show will extend beyond the discrete gallery space through extensive programming that will occur concurrently at the Whitney, in close collaboration with the artist. This show continues the Museum's engagement with Poitras, whose work was included in the 2012 Whitney Biennial. Poitras's reporting on NSA surveillance was recently awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

David Wojnarowicz
Spring 2016

This exhibition will be the first major, monographic presentation of the work of David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992) in over a decade. Wojnarowicz came to prominence in the East Village art world of the 1980s, actively embracing all media and forging an expansive range of work both fiercely political and highly personal. Although largely self-taught, he worked as an artist and writer to meld a sophisticated combination of found and discarded materials with an uncanny understanding of literary influences. First displayed in raw storefront galleries, his work achieved national prominence at the same moment that the AIDS epidemic was cutting down a generation of artists, himself included. The exhibition will be co- curated by Whitney curator David Kiehl with art historian David Breslin and will draw upon recently available scholarly resources and the Whitney’s extensive holdings of Wojnarowicz’s work.

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