Perhaps you’ve heard: there’s a new Whitney in town. After five long years, the Renzo Piano-designed Whitney Museum of American Art opened its downtown doors on May 1. Here’s the scoop on what’s new  at the museum, what’s just for kids and families, and even some tips on what to do in the area if you make a day of it.

Whitney 411

Founded in 1930 by the artist and philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (in a much tinier space) the Whitney Museum of American Art houses the foremost collection of American Art from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. After spending almost 50 years on the Upper East Side on Madison Avenue, the institution has moved downtown to Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District into an expansive, modern building designed by award-winning architect Renzo Piano. (You know that crazy looking building you’ve seen under construction forever from the West Side Highway? That’s the new Whitney!)

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What’s New at the New Whitney

Obviously, the building. The new digs approximately double the museum’s exhibition space, which not only means new possibilities for artists and audiences, but a significant increase in the number of works from the museum’s permanent collection that will now be on view at the museum. (Fittingly, the inaugural exhibit America is Hard to See, reexamines the history of American art from 1900 to today and is the most extensive display to date of the Whitney’s collection, occupying the entire museum.)

The new building also houses — for the first time at the Whitney — a dedicated space for education programs, as well as a multi-use, 170-seat theater.

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Go for the Art, Stay for the Views

Of course, the art is impressive, but the building’s unobstructed views of the Hudson and surrounding cityscape aren’t bad, either. The floor-to ceiling windows provide great views, but the building’s 13,000 square feet of cascading terraces allow visitors to take in the city (and featured art and performances) outside.

Located on the fifth floor, the museum’s largest outdoor gallery showcases the site-specific piece Mary Heilmann: Sunset, which includes (among other elements) 40 candy-colored chairs, free for visitors to sit in and take in the sunset or urban vista.

Mary Heilmann

Just for Kids and Families

On May 16 from 2-4 p.m., The Whitney will host a “Whitney Kids Opening” for families and kids of all ages. Families are invited to explore the new building on their own or on a tour, take part in an art-making workshop, and enjoy a Whitney Kids Activity Guide.

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The museum will also feature ongoing programs for families and children in the new building. These include:

• “Whitney Wees”, for families with kids ages four and five which features an interactive experience of looking, sharing and working together in the galleries.

• Sketching Tours, for families with kids ages 6-10 years old, which explores exhibits through looking at art and creating experimental sketches inspired by the Whitney’s collection.

• Open Studio, for families with kids of all ages, which each week invites families to the new Hearst Artspace to make their own artwork inspired by current exhibits.

• Stroller Tours, for parents with babies up to 18 months of age, which feature Whitney Teaching Fellows leading engaging tours on current exhibits. (They say “crying babies are encouraged!”)

(Call the museum or check the web site for specific dates and times.)

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Good to know if you go

Lines at the Whitney can be long. Do yourself a favor and buy tickets online before you go and you’ll get to skip the line and walk right in.

The Whitney’s new ‘hood is happening. If you haven’t strolled The High Line, be sure to do so. For food (and bathrooms) check out nearby food halls Gansevoort Market or Chelsea Market, and if it’s not too crowded, the Standard Hotel’s Biergarten is a good place to grab a refreshing drink — and giant pretzel!

The Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Ganservoort St.
Meatpacking District
212-570-3633
Online: whitney.org

 

Have you visited the new Whitney? Tell us what you thought in the comments!

—Mimi O’Connor