On a fresh, strangely Fall-like Wednesday in January (I can say fall as I have now lived in New York for 6 months) a group of very excited, art-obsessed, coffee-seeking souls gathered on the 8th floor of The Whitney Museum of American Art.
We are the ambassadors for The Whitney. Only two days after my interview (and the newest art groupie) I was about to sit down to breakfast with Adam Weinberg. The Whitney’s Director, the Godfather himself.
Armed with my notebook and generous dose of caffeine, I was ready. I felt like it was my first day school all over again. That was, until he spoke. Adam was quite possibly the nicest man in New York. Down-to-earth, easy-going and just so… well, happy. If this is what being surrounded by so much art can do, then throw away my face cream and past me the acrylic!
Enough rambling, having painted a picture (get it?) of this fantastic morning. We quizzed away:
How do you see The Whitney?
The museum is a place that plays a score of that time. The art should represent the country and the diversity of American culture. After all New York City has 156 languages spoken alone. (And with that came my favourite quote of the morning – so topical it’s ridiculous): “America is like an artichoke. People always think that if you pull away the leaves of the artichoke, you will find the heart of America. But actually what they don’t realise is true America are the leaves.”
What happened to the old Whitney building?
The old building, which Adam talks very fondly of (comparing it to ones first Bar Mitzvah suit) is really fancy, but it fits a little small and is therefore being leased to the MET for the next 7 years.
How do you think digital technology has impacted the artists of today?
Humorously, Adam told us he had only purchased his first computer last week and has been living in the digital world via his iPad, but that he sees the use of digital in art as just another medium. When he saw photography start to take over the art world, there were murmurings of the death of painting. But as he pointed out, it was just another medium, a way for artists to express themselves. He continues, “what should always be remembered, is art in any medium is about the quality of the idea and not the media.”
What are the requirements to exhibit at The Whitney?
Well, the full title is the ‘Whitney Museum of American Art’ but they’re currently displaying the work of Swiss artist Urs Fischer, the daily melting wax figure of Julian Scnhabel. Confused? The simple rule of the museum is this: You either have to be an American-born artist or a foreign artist where the work created on American turf.
How is the Bucksbaum Award selected?
Created in 2000 by trustee Melva Bucksbaum and her family, the Bucksbaum Award is given every two years. Adam and the chief curator lock themselves away for two days, fighting it out to establish who should be victorious. They have to choose from the Biennial and demonstrate a combination of both talent and imagination. The last winner was Zoe Leonard.
Moving forward, what are the goals for The Whitney?
Adam speaks very highly of Gertrude Vanderblit Whitney, her family and her vision for the museum, an idol to any #girlboss or feminist. He talked about how she strived to show off up-and-coming artists work in a safe space, a family space. These are the values that Adam holds dearest, the ones he wishes continue and instil in the future of the museum: a safe, artistic place that feels like home. Speaking to Adrian Hardwicke (Director of Visitor Experience) afterwards, he confirmed that it is in fact Adam that makes the museum feel like home.
What is your favourite book?
The shape of time by George Kubler. Adam confesses he has a love for “…any fiction that takes away from the huge coffee table books I should be reading.”
So there you have it folks, a little insight into the mind of The Whitney’s top dog.
If you find yourself with some spare time on your hands perhaps pay your local art gallery a visit and get stuck in!