Whitney Museum of American Art

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WHITNEY MUSEUM. Dedicated to the presentation and promotion of American art, especially modern and contemporary works, the museum was founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875–1942) in 1930. Whitney, who was a sculptor acclaimed for her more traditional, figurative pieces, was interested in the avant-garde artistic movements centered around Greenwich Village in the early part of the twentieth century. In 1912, she leased a townhouse near her studio and founded the Whitney Studio at 8 West Eighth Street. In 1918, she created the Whitney Studio Club, which provided meeting and exhibition space for unrecognized artists; Edward Hopper had his first exhibition there. These were replaced in 1928 by the Whitney Studio Galleries. After the Metropolitan Museum of Art rejected her collection in 1929, she founded the Whitney Museum at 8–14 West Eighth Street. The museum opened on 18 November 1931 with 700 works of art, the vast majority from Whitney's private collection. It was run by Juliana Force (1876–1948), who had also run the Whitney Studio, and was originally supported by the Whitney family. The museum moved once before, finding its present home in 1966 in a building designed by Marcel Breuer and Hamilton Smith. It has a collection of some 12,000 objects, including every important American artist of the twentieth century. Its collection of Edward Hopper paintings is the largest in the world; numerous works by Alexander Calder and Georgia O'Keeffe are central to the collection on display. The museum also prides itself on its holdings of Stuart Davis and Reginald Marsh from the first half of the century and on its acquisition of works by Alex Katz, Agnes Martin, Louise Nevelson, Claes Oldenburg, Ad Reinhardt, and many others representing American art in the second half of the century. The museum, which is now public, is supported in part by members and visitors; it also relies upon its governing non-profit organization to secure city, state, and national grants, and to recruit corporate donors. The Whitney runs programs for teachers and students and provides on-line resources. The museum maintains its focus on living artists in accordance with its earliest constitution, which stated that the function of the Whitney was "to preserve, protect, and put on public view, paintings, drawings, and sculpture by American artists … and to contribute to the encouragement and development of art and artists, generally, in America, and to the education of the public."


Berman, Avis. Rebels on Eighth Street: Juliana Force and the Whitney Museum of American Art. New York: Atheneum, 1990.

Haskell, Barbara. The American Century: Art and Culture 1900– 1950. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1999.

Phillips, Lisa. The American Century: Art and Culture, 1950– 2000. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1999.


See alsoArt: Painting ; Art: Sculpture .

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Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York City, founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney with a core group of 700 artworks, many from her own collection. The museum was an outgrowth of the Whitney Studio (1914–18), the Whitney Studio Club (1918–28), and the Whitney Studio Galleries (1928–30). Opened to the public in 1931, the museum has actively supported American art and continues its support through the purchase and exhibition of the work of living artists. Its extensive permanent collection contains some 22,000 sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and multimedia works and installations. The collection is particularly rich in works by Charles Burchfield, Alexander Calder, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, Gaston Lachaise, Reginald Marsh, Agnes Martin, Louise Nevelson, and Georgia O'Keeffe. Biennial shows of works in various media provide comprehensive reviews of each year's American art. Since 2015, the museum has been located in downtown Manhattan in a spacious building designed by Renzo Piano. Its brutalist-style Madison Avenue building, which was designed by Marcel Breuer and opened in 1966, is now leased to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

See A. D. Weinberg, American Art of the Twentieth Century: Treasures of the Whitney Museum of American Art (1997); F. M. Biddle, The Whitney Women and the Museum They Made: A Family Memoir (1999); M. L. Anderson, American Visionaries: Selections from the Whitney Museum of American Art (2002).