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Photos: First Lady officially opens new Whitney Museum

First Lady Michelle Obama joined with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to officially open the new Whitney Museum of American Art, now housed in a 220,000 s/f building in the Meatpacking District.

First Lady Michelle Obama said, “I fell in love with the building. It is an amazing space…One visit, one performance, one touch, and who knows how you could spark a child’s imagination. I truly cannot wait to see the impact this extraordinary museum will have in the years ahead.”

Also speaking at the dedication ceremony were Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney; architect Renzo Piano; and leaders of the Whitney’s Board of Trustees: Co-Chairmen Robert J. Hurst and Brooke Garber Neidich, President Neil G. Bluhm, and Honorary Chairman Flora Miller Biddle, granddaughter of artist and Museum founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney.

The new building returns the Museum to the downtown area where it was founded in 1930.

With indoor and outdoor spaces that offer panoramic views east across the city, the building doubles the Museum’s previous gallery space.

Architect Renzo Piano said, “I love making buildings. I especially love making buildings for public use.

“Public buildings are the essence of cities because they are places where people share values. They stay together and enjoy the city. Especially among public buildings I love to make buildings for art and beauty. The reason is very simple — because art and beauty make people better people…I’m pretty sure that beauty will save the world. It will save one person at a time. It will do it.”

The 18,000 square foot exhibition gallery will be the largest column-free gallery in the city.

In addition to gallery space, the museum includes classrooms and studio spaces, art-handling spaces, a restaurant, an auditorium, special events spaces, a museum shop, a wet treatment lab, a conservation lab, film and video rooms, a theatre, and a works on paper study center.

The museum is eight stories above grade, with two below grade levels, and has a steel structure with 60 foot high and five millimeter thick enamel steel plates.

The building’s façade also has a step feature to create sculpture terraces for 15,000 square feet of outdoor galleries and event space.

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