Secrecy Surrounds Whitney Reopening Announcements

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The Whitney Museum of American Art.
Photo: Timothy Schenck.

On Thursday, May 1, the Whitney Museum of American Art will hold a press conference and hard hat tour at its future Downtown home, due to open in the spring of 2015 in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. While the event promises to offer a taste of the institution’s programming following the relocation, and a glimpse of the nearing-completion Renzo Piano building, artnet News has also heard that there will be a very big surprise announcement. Unable to get more information from the institution’s press agents, we’ve come up with 10 hypotheses as to what this big surprise might be.

10. Due to fundraising shortfalls, the entire staff of the Whitney will be laid off as soon as construction is completed, except for director Adam Weinberg, who will assume all duties, from educational programming and curation to guarding the galleries and preparing and serving meals at Untitled, the Whitney restaurant. Janitorial duties will be handled by a dynamic team of maintenance interns, who will curate cleanliness in all the building’s lavatory galleries and refuse receptacles. Simultaneously they will source fiber specimens for an exhibition on contemporary American lint, in collaboration with the Miscroscopy Society of America. They will be compensated with vouchers for complimentary admission to the Whitney Museum of American Art.

9. The inaugural exhibition at the Whitney Downtown will take over the entire building and will be titled “Trusty.” It will consist exclusively of works from the private collections of Whitney Museum trustees, curated by Robert Indiana.

8. As a symbolic link between the final exhibition in the museum’s Marcel Breuer building—a sprawling Jeff Koons retrospective—and its new home in the Meatpacking District, the Whitney will fabricate and install Koons’s long-planned hanging locomotive sculpture, Train, outside its main entrance.

7. Immediately upon completion of the Whitney’s Downtown building, the institution will begin construction on its next outpost, the Whitney Ajman. This new Whitney satellite will be housed in a building designed collaboratively by Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid, and will put Ajman—regarded by many as an under-the-radar United Arab Emirate poised for big things—on the cultural map. Said one Whitney curator, on condition of anonymity: “Ajman is so funky, it’s like Dubai in the 1980s. It really makes Qatar look like Sharjah.”

6. In light of the budgetary challenges of constructing a new building in precarious economic times, the Whitney has had to severely curtail its exhibition programming. Every exhibition in the new building will draw from the institution’s permanent collection except for one, the Whitney Biennial, which will be rebranded as the “Whitney Quinquennial” to take place every five years and remain on view in the special exhibitions galleries for four-and-a-half years.

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The Whitney Museum of American Art.
Photo: Timothy Schenck.

5. The Whitney Museum has reached an agreement with beloved retailer Forever 21 to produce a line of T-shirts, dresses, trousers, and tote bags branded with iconic works from the institution’s permanent collection. Dubbed “Forever Whitney,” the Georgia O’Keeffe hot pants, Roy Lichtenstein leotards, Wade Guyton hoodies, and other assorted items will be available for purchase exclusively at the Downtown Whitney’s gift shop, on the museum’s website, and at every Forever 21 store in the US.

4. The top floor of the Downtown Whitney will house a fully-staffed live-work studio for architect Renzo Piano and his Renzo Piano Building Workshop, where the architect will be based for a minimum of six months out of the year. Visitors will be free to walk around the studio and ask questions of Building Workshop interns, staff, and even the architect himself. This program will be called “The Piano Lesson.”

3. In addition to the four elevator installations designed by the late Richard Artschwager, the new Whitney Downtown will have another permanent installation in its lobby when it opens in spring 2015: Tilda Swinton’s The Maybe. The actress and performance artist will lay sleeping in a glass box during opening hours every day the Whitney is open to the public. When scheduling conflicts make it impossible for her to be on site, “artist” James Franco will don a wig and makeup to stage his own performance in the glass box, The New Maybe.

2. As more and more commercial art galleries mount “museum-quality” exhibitions, the Downtown Whitney hopes to harness the strengths and dynamism of the gallery sector by mounting more “gallery-quality” shows. To that end, it will devote its largest exhibition space—the column-free, 18,000-square-foot special exhibitions gallery—to a series of gallery residencies. Every month, a commercial gallery based in New York City will take over the space and present its own programming for three to four weeks.

1. In an attempt to question and curtail the current trend of adding diversity to museum collections by acquiring works by women artists and artists of color, the Whitney Museum will hereafter only show and acquire works by white male artists. All works by non-white, non-male artists currently in the museum collection will be deaccessioned and sold at auction in order to fund further acquisitions of works by white male artists and to create a new endowed curatorial position, the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Curator of Art by White Men.