Yesterday Artinfo reported that the Whitney and Metropolitan museums were in talks that could result in the Whitney leasing its Marcel Breuer-designed building to the Met. Six thoughts:
- If this goes through, it would be a nice thing for the Met, an enabling thing for the Whitney, but it might ultimately be a bigger deal for the cramped National Gallery of Art, the most major American museum that hasn’t expanded in the last 30 years.
- The Met leads. If the Met does this, it makes it somewhat more likely that its similarly confined peer museums would be willing to expand off-site. Art Institute of Chicago head James Cuno has already acknowledged that if the AIC grows again, it’ll have to be elsewhere. The director of the most under-built, relatively under-sized major American museum — the NGA — has also previously said that his museum needs to explore off-site expansion alternatives. If the Met expands to the Whitney, it gives the super-conservative NGA leadership and trustees something to point to and say, ‘If they can…’
- But in terms of what the Met would gain in square footage, it may be more minor than you would have thought: According to AAMD’s 2009 member survey, the Met has 786,000 square feet of exhibition space. That’s tops in the country, more than triple the gallery space at No. 2 LACMA. The Whitney did not reply to the 2009 survey, but multiple outlets have reported that the Whitney has 30,000 square feet of exhibition space (about 67th in the U.S., on rough par with the Yale Center for British Art and the Amon Carter). The Met would gain four percent more gallery space. Sure, the Met on Madison would give the museum’s contemporary department somewhere to grow, but does the Met really have that much more we ought to see? I don’t know… which would be part of the fun.
- If the Met moves contemporary exhibitions away from the rest of art history, is that a plus?
- Who would have thunk that the Met might be the first New York museum to expand to a Manhattan satellite? About 15 years ago, when MoMA was deciding what to do about it’s quarters on 53rd Street, the museum explored the possibility of expanding not on-site, but near John Jay College, across town. It ended up doing what it did.
- If this happens, no one will be happier than curators. The Met would have to do some hiring…
Commenters: What would you like to see the Met do with the space? What would you like them to hang, where and how?