Mindful of our friends’ recommendations for what to see during our Christmas Holiday 2015 in NYC and loving art for art’s sake, we headed to the Whitney Museum following our usual routine: look up address, find appropriate bus or subway, ride, get off, enjoy. But when we arrived where our guide book told us to go — 945 Madison Avenue — we found a closed building. Shut, if you will. Not a problem, we thought. Just ask someone on the street. And that’s how we found ourselves back on the bus headed to 99 Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District at the new Whitney Museum.
Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the cantilevered building known as the Whitney offers 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries with 18,000 of it dedicated to special exhibitions. This largest column-free museum gallery in NYC is a far cry from the original museum founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1930. And with its position between the Hudson River and the High Line, the Whitney offered us an array of modern art as well as views of the area we would never have seen otherwise.
With art from names we recognized — Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Peter Blume, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper — to artists we learned about the night of our visit, the Whitney amazes those well-versed in contemporary art as well as the casual observer. Wide spaces, clean white walls, natural wood floors — all work beautifully, not only for giving each piece of art the space it deserves but also for allowing the efficient movement of spectators who want to view art up close AND far away.
But the evening outside was just as fascinating as the art inside. Expansive porches allow guests at the museum to stand and gaze at buildings lit for the night, to watch people climb the stairs accessing the High Line, and to stare out at the Hudson River and watch the sun go down.
We, too, wanted to experience the High Line, but merely as a conduit to nearby Chelsea Market. Then we read more in our guide book about this pathway that was first an above-ground rail line. In the 1980s, the last freight train on this line delivered goods to merchants. But by 1999, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, hearing the outcry from residents to preserve the structure, founded Friends of the High Line to keep the railway and repurpose it for something else. Planning and design work began, and by 2009, the first section of the High Line opened to the public as a scenic walkway. Today, multiply plantings beautify the structure. (See pictures on Flickr here.) And people enjoy walking the High Line as much for sheer enjoyment as to get from Point A to Point B. (Because it was dark, we have no pictures to share. But here is an outstanding view from the Friends of the High Line website.)
We wanted to experience a walk along the High Line, but we were also on a mission: to find dinner at Chelsea Market! So, we climbed the stairs to access the High Line, walked a couple of blocks, and then climbed back down to find ourselves squarely in an industrial space filled with restaurants, vendors of quality goods, and people just roaming around — talking and eating, of course. (Be aware of one thing: there is little seating in Chelsea Market. People order, stand at counters or take food out. They enjoy the space for what it is. We landed at a burger place simply because two stools magically became available!)
You can find seafood, burgers, spices, cheese, etc., at Chelsea Market in the block long, block wide building holding 35 vendors, or you can just watch the people go by. (And according to the website, about six million national and international visitors filter through the place per year.) It’s a venue to see, all right, and the food (a global mix, we’d say) is worth the wait — and the standing!
If you’re thinking of visiting NYC, take the route we found quite by accident — from the Whitney to the High Line to Chelsea Market! And, yes, it’s worth the steps. After all, you can rest on the bus as you ride back to your lodging in the city, feeling proud that you’re now an art connoisseur full of good food from one of the greatest cities in the world!
For more information:
Whitney Museum of Art, 99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014; (212) 570-10014; whitney.org.
Friends of the High Line; http://www.thehighline.org/
Chelsea Market: http://www.chelseamarket.com/