Confirming rumors that swept the art world this spring, Sotheby’s said Thursday that it purchased the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 1966 Brutalist building by Marcel Breuer on Madison Avenue and will move its headquarters there from York Street in 2025.
The purchase price for the Breuer building was not disclosed, but two people involved in the deal, asked Their identity has not been disclosed because they are not authorized to discuss it publicly, the figure is estimated to be around $100 million.
“It’s bittersweet” Adam D. said: Weinberg, the Whitney’s manager, reported parting ways with the building permanently. “I know every square inch of it and I think it’s one of the great masterpieces out there. It’s a masterpiece of modern architecture.”
Sotheby’s CEO Charles F. Stewart called the Breuer Building “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we couldn’t pass up,” adding that “the location couldn’t be more ideal for our client base” to view artwork, attend sales, and meet professionals.
“The opportunity to buy an iconic museum in any major city — it just didn’t happen,” Stewart continued. Although the auction house will hire an architect to reimagine Brewer’s interior and create a sales room inside the five-story building — it’s in a historic district but doesn’t itself have a historic designation — Stewart said Sotheby’s is “committed to preserving the integrity of what’s there.” I love the building,” including the lobby.
weinberg, who plans to step down next fall after 20 years, Breuer no longer makes sense for the Whitney to keep, he said, given that the museum has doubled the exhibition space in its new Renzo Piano-designed headquarters, which also has an accessible and welcoming presence.
“It was built for a while out of large easel panels,” Weinberg said of Breuer. “For us, it became clear that it didn’t really make sense to have a divided Whitney—how do you divide it?” he added. “Too. We don’t want to be landlords.”
For Sotheby’s, Breuer represents an opportunity to improve its York Avenue location, and get closer to the heart of the Upper East Side arts world, an area that includes great galleries like Gagosian, Mnuchin, and Acquavella, and where smaller galleries abound. The Madison Avenue location will also allow more foot traffic to Sotheby’s galleries, i.e. pre-auction previews, that give members of the public the opportunity to view precious works of art before they disappear into private hands.
The move marks a return to Sotheby’s roots, given that the auction house once occupied the Parke-Bernet galleries across Madison Avenue, where Gagosian is now.
The deal — which Sotheby’s and Whitney declined to confirm in response to inquiries from The Times in April — finally sealed the fate of the Breuer Building, which has hung in the balance since the Whitney’s move to the meatpacking district in 2015. The Whitney eventually reclaims the building and operates uptown as well. In the city center? Will the Brewer Building end up as a wealthy private residence or luxury retailer?
Many wondered if, now so closely associated with Brewer, Whitney would make a successful fresh start in that rough part of Manhattan. What was Whitney without Brewer? What was Brewer without Whitney?
Leonard A Lauder, The Whitney’s powerful honorary president initially opposed moving the museum downtown as too risky, insisting that the Whitney commit not to sell Breuer for 20 years. But Lauder eventually switched to and named the new location after him: the Leonard A. Lauder Building.
“When the discussion started, it was before the High Line was completed, before Hudson Yards started and before a lot of the major building boom,” Lauder told the Times in 2016. Be a lone institution in a neighborhood that was waiting to happen. Well, it happens.”
Indeed, the Whitney in its new location has become an integral part of this neighborhood’s regeneration – helping to spur continued residential and commercial development in the area surrounding the High Line and Hudson Yards.
After Whitney’s departure, the Metropolitan Museum of Art leased the building for six years, presenting contemporary art at the Met Breuer. Among its noteworthy performances He was “Unfinished: Ideas Left Visible,” It displays artwork in various states of completion, as well as a Kerry James Marshall retrospective, “Mastry”.
The Met spent about $15 million updating it for Breuer – including a large sum on the restaurant – and cost the museum about $17 million a year to operate the building.
In 2021, the Met turned over the space to the Frick Group, which has used the building while its stunning 1914 mansion on Fifth Avenue undergoes renovation.
Under Sotheby’s, the Breuer Building on East 75th Street will include gallery and exhibition space as well as an auction house. Whether the auction house will keep the underground restaurant remains to be determined.
Sotheby’s will take over the Breuer Building in September 2024, when Frick departs. Plan to move the following year.
The modernist building was designed by Breuer, a Hungarian-born architect who trained in the Bauhaus. Although many hate brooding on the block, they are solid Architecture, Breuer has become the perfect venue for displaying 20th- and 21st-century art and sculpture. “It combines form and function, beautifully,” Michael Kimmelman wrote in The New York Times in 2015. “Not only were the gallery floors functional and resilient. They were also private, polished and muscular, with lattice concrete ceilings. Outside and inside, the mix of gray granite conveys Concrete and slate supreme craftsmanship.”
The Whitney Hotel, founded in 1930, opened in 1931 on West Eighth Street near Fifth Avenue. In 1954, the museum moved to an expanded location at 22 West 54th Street before moving to Breuer in 1966. Before deciding to pick up stakes and move downtown, Whitney contemplated several remodeling of the Breuer site, including expansions by Michael Graves, Rem Koolhaas and Renzo Piano.
In 2024, Sotheby’s opens new flagship showrooms in Hong Kong and Paris. Later this year, Sotheby’s will open Gantry Point In Long Island City, New York, a 240,000-square-foot facility for the handling and storage of artwork.
Sotheby’s will retain ownership of the headquarters it has occupied since 1980 at 1334 York Avenue – expanding it in 2019 – and where the company will continue to operate until it moves into the Breuer Building.
“I was so grateful that they thought we would be such great stewards of this building,” Stewart said of Whitney. “Open to the public, submission of art – the use of the building will be consistent with the reason it was built. There is a continuum.”