In my previous post, I gave you my take on the Whitney from the outside. When the new Whitney Museum of American Art opens doors today, the first exhibit is selection of works from the Museum’s permanent collection, called “America is Hard To See“. It features over 600 works by some 400 artists, from about 1900 up to the present. The exhibition’s title is taken from a poem by Robert Frost and was also used by filmmaker Emile de Antonio for one of his political documentaries, delves deep into the Whitney’s collection, reflecting the way artists think and work. All mediums are presented together without hierarchy. Numerous pieces that have rarely, if ever, been shown, appear alongside familiar icons, in an effort to challenge how we think about American art. With 600+ works it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to even scratch the surface visually, the scope of the show is so broad, so, I’ve just introduced the galleries here that get progressively larger as you go down each level. So many treasures in one gallery after the next, I could go on and on… I’ve been to the museum twice now, and I was so excited by the whole that I need to return to focus on seeing individual works. There’s a great, new handbook of the collection that I recommend. No matter HOW much you know (or think you know) there are artists to discover that you’ve missed, I’ll bet.
My favorite gallery, for many reasons, are the Abstract Expressionist & Pop galleries, which happen to represent my own interests as an artist and the moment I entered the planet. There are real masterpieces in the center gallery that work SO well together it kind of made me giddy; Alex Katz‘s Ada alongside Warhol‘s Nose Job; Jasper John’s Three Flags next to Alan D’Arcangelo‘s Madonna & Child. But you also get Calder’s Circus, choice Edward Hopper & several sublime Georgia O’Keefe‘s.
The last floor with the most recent work represents my time in New York City and there are many friends and aquantainces represented; Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat, Mark Morrisroe, David Wojnarowicz, Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe… all dead by AIDS with the exception of Jean Michel. Great work on hat floor but death and loss was represented by the missing in the center and at the far end, a painting of planes crashing into the World Trade Center. You can now see the newly opened WTC from the terrace. So, we don’t forget but NYC and humanity is self-renewing and that’s hopeful and exciting. I’ll tell you the whole city is excited by this new museum opening. At dinner the other night, at the Polo Bar, I brought the aforementioned handbook to my pal Veronica Hinman for her birthday and the bag was sitting on the banquet. A twenty-something waiter came over to ask if I had been to the museum and he was SO excited to hear about it. This is New York City, kids, we don’t get that excited about much! You see De Niro on the street and it’s like, “Hi, Bob.” So, come and see for yourself and GET INTO IT.