Michelle Obama opens gallery’s new home in city’s Meatpacking district

Renzo Piano’s new $422m home for the the Whitney Museum of American Art was opened by Michelle Obama last week.

The First Lady cut the ribbon on what is considered to be one of the most significant cultural projects in New York in a decade. It doubles the amount of exhibition space available at the institution’s previous Marcel Breuer-designed home on the Upper East Side, which will now be taken on by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The strong asymmetrical form of Piano’s building responds to the former industrial character of the Meatpacking district where the museum is located and takes inspiration from the neighouring loft buildings and overhead railway lines. The 20,500sq m gallery includes 4,600sq m of exhibition space.

Renzo Piano said: “The design of this building emerged from many years of conversations with the Whitney, which took us back to the museum’s origins.

“We spoke about the roots of the Whitney in downtown New York, and about this opportunity to enjoy the open space by the Hudson River. Museum experience is about art, and it is also about being connected to this downtown community and to this absolutrely extraordinary phsysical setting.”

The Whitney Museum of American Art was founded in 1930 by the artist and philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. It houses the foremost collection of American art from this and last century.

The new building forms part of a $760 million fundraising initiative for the musuem which includes $422 million for the design and construction of the new museum, $225 million to bolster the museum’s endowment and $113 million in capacity-building funds for artistic and educational programming and for related transition expenses.