I'm not sure which was more breathtaking - sweeping views in one vast room from the Hudson River on the west to Chelsea rooftops on the east - or the sheer immensity of the new Whitney Museum's dramatic 5th floor gallery.
It's nearly one-third the size of a football field - at 18,200 square feet, the largest column-free museum gallery in New York. To celebrate the close of its first year in its new downtown location, the Whitney invited installation and performance artists to realize the grandeur of this one-floor expanse in the five-part "Open Plan" exhibit that closes May 14, 2016.
After touring the other Whitney floors, I spent well over an hour sitting on one of the randomly scattered couches, watching the indoor street theater drawn to Lucy Dodd's "Open Plan" canvasses. The massive paintings were amplified by the lilting Latin-fused music of Mariana Barcellos and her band. According to the write-up, Dodd hoped to create "a space of ritual action and improvisation demanding a longer and broader engagement on the part of the audience." It appears on the afternoon that seductively captivated me, she succeeded. Her free-standing canvases became the foreground against the Whitney's organic architectural skeleton animated by people strolling, standing, sitting.
Envisioned by Renzo Piano and situated between the High Line and Hudson River, the new home for American 20th century and contemporary art is a destination to visit in snapshots.
There is so much to take in - both in and around the museum's revitalized presence downtown - the building's looming presence witnessed from the High Line walkway, even the stylish first-floor cafe. And, of course, Chelsea Market (a destination itself) is only a few blocks away along with scattered designer shops like Diane von Furstenberg in the neighborhood's restored brick warehouses. As one who is not a natural in art museums (unless there is room to breathe and contemplate), I was struck in this new Whitney by a profusion of shared moods displaying energy, awe, delight.