Summer Diary / The Whitney


As I mentioned earlier this summer, this August marks my official five-year anniversary of living in New York City. To celebrate this ACHIEVEMENT (because as I’ve already mentioned before, it ain’t easy living here), I’ve been spending the last couple of months revisiting some of my favorite spots in the city, and exploring new ones. Among the top spots on my list was to visit The Whitney.

If you live in NYC, you know that The Whitney has called uptown its home for decades. And, this summer, the museum officially moved to the Meatpacking District downtown. CRAZY!!!! I’m not so savvy about the art world, but anyone who’s anyone knows that this was a monumental change. You can read all about the history of The Whitney here to better understand the impact of this relocation.

After the initial buzz of its opening back in May, I had a great opportunity to visit with a friend of mine who is a sculptor and a practicing artist in the contemporary art world of NYC. Thankfully, his company and breadth of knowledge about 21st-century American art made a positive impression on my experience with the museum’s current exhibitions, for without him, I would have missed a lot of the magic.

While we were exploring, I couldn’t help thinking about how different my experience would have been if I had come alone. As much as I love art, I have to admit that contemporary art often eludes me – I have a hard time connecting with it, which is why visiting with my friend was such a blessing. Call me a romantic, but my senses are much more attracted to the likes of Picasso, Hopper, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Rodin, etc. I’m shamelessly starry-eyed for the classics, I can’t help it.

That being said, there was something that stood out to me about The Whitney, and that was: the building itself.

I had done a little reading about it before going, just in my general perusal of what the internet had to say about the uptown-downtown transition, so I walked in with a morsel of context. As it turns out, the building is actually designed by one of the world’s most renowned architects, Renzo Piano, who also designed The Shard in London and the corporate headquarters/flagship store of Maison Hermès in Tokyo, which he designed after a traditional Japanese lantern. Fancy stuff, right? So I found myself totally fascinated with the experience of walking around The Whitney. Here are the three things about it that stood out to me specifically…

The staircase on the ground floor, to the right of the elevators. I personally like working through a museum from the top down. You can take the stairs all the way up to the sixth floor and work your way down floor after floor. When I went, there was an artwork of six 100 foot-long strands of lightbulbs hung in the center of the stairway, which I later learned is Félix González-Torres’s “Untitled (America)” (1994). It’s amazing. (Read more about it here.)

The west side of the fifth floor where there are couches you can sit on, right underneath Jonathan Borofsky’s Running People at 2,616,216 (1978-79), and stare out onto the High Line or the Hudson River. It’s magical. (Watch this video of Borofsky painting.)

The Mary Heilmann: Sunset installation of chairs that are painted in bright colors described as “confetti” (not my language, don’t judge, read more here) on the outdoor terrace. After wandering around the expansive floors of exhibition after exhibition, it was nice to take a load off and stare blindly at the trees of The High Line. It was really mesmerizing, like looking into fire.

Seriously, go to the Whitney. Check out these three areas. Most of this stuff is only on view through Labor Day or September 27, depending on the exhibit. Here, I’ll make it easy for you:

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