Whitney Museum of American Art

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The Whitney Museum of American Art, often referred to simply as "the Whitney", is an art museum with a focus on 20th- and 21st-century American art. Located at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street in New York City, the Whitney's permanent collection contains more than 18,000 works in a wide variety of media. The Whitney places a particular emphasis on exhibiting the work of living artists for its collection as well as maintaining an extensive permanent collection containing many important pieces from the first half of the last century. The museum's Annual and Biennial exhibitions have long been a venue for younger and less well-known artists whose work is showcased by the museum.



Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the museum's namesake and founder, was herself a well-regarded sculptor as well as a serious art collector. As a patron of the arts, she had already achieved some success as the creator of the "Whitney Studio Club," a New York–based exhibition space which she created in 1918 to promote the works of avant-garde and unrecognized American artists. With the aid of her assistant, Juliana Force, Whitney had collected nearly 700 works of American art, when she offered to donate it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1929. The Met declined the gift. This, along with an apparent favoritism for European modernism at the recently opened Museum of Modern Art, led Whitney to open her own museum, exclusively for American Art, in 1931. Force became the first director of the museum, and under her guidance, the museum concentrated on displaying the works of new and contemporary American artists.[1]

Gertrude Whitney's daughter, Flora Payne Whitney, served as a museum trustee, then as vice president. From 1942 to 1974 she was the museum's president and chairman after which she functioned as honorary chairman until her death in 1986. Her daughter, Flora Miller Biddle, served as its president until 1985. In 1999, her book The Whitney Women and the Museum They Made was published by Arcade Publishing (ISBN 978-1559705943).

The museum was originally located with Gertrude Whitney's studio in the rowhouses at 10–14 West Eighth Street. By the 1950s, it had moved to a small structure behind the Museum of Modern Art. The Whitney settled in 1966 at the southeast corner of Madison Avenue at 75th Street in Manhattan's Upper East Side.[2] The present building, planned and built 1963–1966 by Marcel Breuer and Hamilton P. Smith in a distinctively modern style, is easily distinguished from the neighboring townhouses by its staircase façade made from granite stones and its external upside-down windows.

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