New Museum Death Match*

*This post isn't about the New Museum but some new museums

So last year the Whitney closed up shop on the Upper West Side to move into its new giant building in the Meatpacking District at the end of the High Line and everyone was like "Ooooh, you've got to go see the new Whitney" but I was having trouble getting around to it. Then, just the other month, the MET took over the old Whitney space and everyone was like "Oooooh, you've got to go see the new MET at the old Whitney." And I was like "I haven't even seen the new Whitney yet and I'm supposed to go back to the old Whitney?"

Well, good news. I've now been to both museums and am ready to report on how to best spend your hard earned Pay What You Wish dollar.


The new Whitney is a million dollars to visit on most days of the week but Pay What You Wish on Friday nights, so each Friday night a giant line forms outside of this impressive factory of a museum. Bryndee and I got there before it opened so the line wasn't much of a concern since they hadn't even let anyone inside yet and it didn't take us long to get in after they opened the doors.

Entering the museum, I found it to be big, brand new, and full of big art and pieces I recognized from the permanent collection. One whole floor was closed off while a new exhibit was being installed.

I'll go ahead and say it, the best thing about the new Whitney is the building and the funnest part is the outdoor spaces. You can reach each floor via the outdoor terraces and staircases. I don't know why you'd ever use an interior staircase at the new Whitney when you could be going up stairs outside.

And here's some of the permanent collection that was on display 

Back outside again to take the stairs again

I really liked these giant pieces of fried chicken

Top floor: More video art and such.

There was this room where you could lie down on this giant couch (or ottoman?) and look up at a projection of the sky but there was this mysterious little hole in the ceiling

Which turned out to be an infrared camera taping the people looking at the ceiling. Ha! You got us.

Okay, one trip down the interior stairs

A little peak at the museum's glass-walled offices

Gift Shop Highlight: This mama bear cookie jar

So, new Whitney in a nutshell: Cool building, good location near other cool stuff, pay what you wish on Friday nights, good old permanent collection on display that you'll recognize from the old Whitney if you'd seen it before, special exhibits that I saw didn't get me going, but they've since opened a portrait exhibit that sounds cool.


Okay, first things first it's not called "the new Met at the old Whitney", it's the Met Breuer museum. And it's inside the iconic old brutalist Whitney, which they've added a little red to so you feel like "Oh, new stuff is happening here!"

Karrie and I went to check it out on April 22nd, the second to last Friday of April. Every day is pay what you wish at Met museums, but I was surprised that there was no line at all to get in and that the museum was relatively empty. Hot new museum? No crowds on a Friday night? Weird.

Got some good news to share right off the bat: the little adobe village is still in the staircase. Don't tell the Whitney that they forgot to bring it.

The first exhibit we saw was a retrospective on an artist I was not familiar with named Nasreen Mohamedi. I found myself quickly won over by her intricate and methodical graph paper art (and "conventional" art, too...but the graph paper art was what I really liked).

Then we went up another floor to the Breuer's big opening exhibit, "Unfinished", which was all unfinished works of art. Like the graph art, there was something about these unfinished arts that really drew me in. I can't explain exactly why it was, but I loved all the not-done art.

At first it starts with things like "Ha ha, yup, that's definitely not a finished painting!"

But then it gets more challenging and you have to ask yourself "How can you tell when an abstract expressionist work isn't finished?" and I think there was a lesson we were supposed to learn about some of the art that it wasn't complete without the introduction of a viewer looking at it or interacting with it.

From the big window of the museum's top floor I could see across the street right into a family's Seder dinner. I watched them until they noticed I was watching and got them to wave to me. And now I realize that's why the Breuer was empty that night, it was Passover! Everyone had somewhere else to be.

Gift Shop Highlight: Found a children's book I remember my mom checking out from the library when we lived in California about a man who finds a monster that turns out to be kids. I've wondered for a long time what the book even was or what it was called or who drew it and then, say 32 or 33 years later, I find it again...or I think I find it. I turned the pages with trepidation, telling myself I'd know this was definitely the book from back then if there's a picture where a man just has a bloody foot in a bag. And then there it was. A life-long mystery solved. The book is called the Beast of Monsieur Racine by Tomi Ungerer.

So, Met Breuer in a nutshell: Same old building, same old yawners UES location, great exhibits when I went.

ULTIMATE VERDICT: If you want to add a museum to a night in the West Village/Chelsea/along the High Line, check out the New Whitney, the building will at least be cool. But for a good art time, check before visiting either to find out what's on display. Because in these two visits, the Breuer exhibits win hands down, but I bet there's cool stuff at the Whitney sometimes.