Whitney Museum Chelsea: A Culturally Responsible New Yorker’s First Impression

I took advantage of the member preview days before the actual May 1st launch to visit the new Whitney Museum in Chelsea. 

As an art enthusiast, a mid-level aesthete and a culturally responsible New Yorker I have attended important exhibitions at the major New York museums for over the last 30 years. So I felt it my duty to familiarise myself with the new Whitney venue as soon as possible as I am sure it will become, by default, an important artistic landmark in my New York life.

Admittedly it wasn’t the inaugural exhibition from the permanent collection that attracted me to the museum  While I have to say the layout, curatorial cadence  and visual appeal of the overall exhibit was lovely, the show itself was basically a snooze and something I would most likely have missed in my culturally responsible New Yorker schedule. I wanted to see the building.

My urgent need to see the building made me muse on the role of museums in my life! Museums are repositories of something much larger than the art offered up to visitors. They are non-sectarian ecumenical temples of contemplation. For the price of admission you are guaranteed the opportunity to expand your understanding on a given time period or avant garde philosophy or one artist’s outpouring of soul. I have always welcomed getting the education as well as the respite from the mundane daily drudgery of my thinking. Regardless of what is being presented, a personal private part of myself is always unleashed, and roams freely through the given exhibit.

To that function, the new Whitney is a grande success. Light pours through from skylit ceilings as well as from the large multiple windows on the end cap of every floor. There are unusually large veranda-like terraces on every floor that are welcoming. During the nice weather I am sure they will become a destination for inspirational hanging out. I say inspirational because unlike a bench in a mall used to rest for a minute, the Whitney’s elevated outdoor overlooks suggest a place for reflection. The open river view on one side of the terrace as well as the lower Manhattan rag tag rooftops on the other side cause one to stop and place your life in the greater scheme of life.  Will the grand views overpower the art inside? I doubt it. They will  instead be the breathing space to absorb and integrate what has been just seen into our precious personal space.

Words/Photo Lizanne Merrill ©Artlyst 2015

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