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Whitney Groundbreaking Plans Announced; Talks with Met on Breuer Building Disclosed UPDATED

Cross-section of Downtown Whitney, as presented in July 2008 to New York’s City Planning Commission

In a press release that just hit my inbox but is not up on the Whitney Museum’s website at this writing [UPDATE: now it is], the museum announced that its board today agreed to break ground next May for the Renzo Piano-designed Downtown Whitney.

The press release also detailed the current state of fundraising for the project:

The fundraising campaign for downtown, currently in its leadership phase, has already reached $372 million [$1 million more than the NY Times announced more than a month ago], which represents 63% of the $590 million goal. The total project budget is $680 million, which includes $230 million for the endowment, as well as construction and land costs.

Wait a minute! Why is the goal for the $680-million project only $590 million? The press release doesn’t say, but one assumes the difference is expected to be made up by the planned sale of the townhouses and the annex that the Whitney owns near its uptown flagship.

Once projected to open in 2012, the 195,000-square-foot new facility (previously described as 185,000 square feet) is now expected to open in 2015.

Buried in the press release is confirmation that the Met and Whitney are engaged in talks (scroll down) about the future of the Whitney’s current Breuer-designed uptown flagship:

The Board…agreed that the Whitney will continue discussions with The Metropolitan Museum of Art regarding the potential use of the Whitney’s uptown building on Madison Avenue. The boards of both institutions have authorized the discussions to determine the scope and timing of this potential collaboration.

In her NY Times story, which hit the web shortly before the press release hit my inbox (why am I not surprised?), Carol Vogel provided more details about what the Met-Whitney collaboration might consist of, complete with quotes from her interview with the Met’s director, Thomas Campbell. (When I asked the Met on Friday whether it was in talks to lease or buy the Breuer building, as reported on Thursday by Art+Auction, the response was a terse “We cannot comment.”)

Vogel also quoted the Whitney’s chairman emeritus Leonard Lauder, expressing his unequivocal endorsement of the project, about which he had reportedly had serious reservations.

Apparently, the Met is thinking of using the Breuer space for the temporary display of its modern and contemporary collection, while it renovates the galleries in its own building.

an ArtsJournal blog