Art world gossip blog In The Air broke the puzzling news yesterday that when the board of trustees of the Whitney Museum of American Art approves the institution’s expansion to a planned Meatpacking District building on Tuesday, they will also vote on a previously secret scheme to move the whole operation to the new building and lease their Madison Avenue space to the Metropolitan Museum. Phew. What?!
Originally (well, after many other options were shelved or derailed) the Whitney was going to build its new Renzo Piano-designed space at the southern tip of the High Line and operate in both this new building and its current Madison Ave HQ. Some were concerned that the museum might sell its uptown building, so when Whitney chairman Leonard A. Lauder donated $131 million in 2008, he specified that it was on the condition that the structure not be sold.
A rather radical solution to this stalemate, apparently, would be for the more moneyed and strapped-for-space Met to rent the building as soon as the Whitney finishes its new High Line building, which it would move all its operations into, a previously secret proposal that will reportedly also be discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting. This is the most exciting New York museum semi-scandal since the New Museum announced its exhibition of a trustee’s collection (which closes soon, btw). Would the Upper East Side cease to exist without its foremost contemporary art museum?