Saying Goodbye (sort of) to the Whitney Museum: A Day of Jeff Koons


Can you believe there is not one museum in all of New York City?

Ok so that’s obviously a lie – it’s just that it’s hard to craft an original sentence when starting a blog post about a museum in NYC. I’ve been staring at a blank page all morning trying to think of something clever to say and well, I came up empty. Therefore, I’m going to skip the part of the story about how New York is an international hub for art and culture and how a trip to one of the major museums is a must do for any visitor.

I’m certainly not going to tell you that the city boasts some of the finest collections of art dating from pre-historic times all the way up to works as recent as July and that the art scene is constantly changing and evolving so fast that if you blink, you might just miss the world’s best exhibits.

No, I’m not going to bore you with any of that. What I am going to tell you is that if there is one museum you must visit before mid-October, it’s the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The old Whitney Museum of American Art

The Whitney Museum of American Art

Why The Whitney?

If you’re tired of viewing artwork from long dead guys like the ancient Romans (who really just copied art from the even deader Greeks), the impressionists or the unintentional works of art like fossils made from extinct dinosaurs, then this is the place for you.

Initially birthed in the early 1900’s out of one woman’s collection and desire to showcase innovative and virtually unknown American artists, The Whitney went on to become the first museum devoted to exhibiting the works of living artists and it still remains the leading institution for modern American art.

The museum has been housed in the same iconic building on the Upper East Side since the 1960’s. Much like the art it displays, the building itself is a bold representation of innovation and modernism that truly stands alone in its very classic and traditional neighborhood. It has become a popular and recognizable New York City landmark, but sadly, the legendary building will be closing down come mid-October.

Ok ok sorry! I couldn’t help but throw in a pause for some dramatic flair (blame it on all those middle school drama classes). Yes it is true that The Whitney will no longer be in the Breuer Building (still a bit sad) but it is not gone for good. It’s simply moving into a striking new facility located in the Meatpacking District and will reopen in the spring of 2015.

Plans for the brand new Whitney Museum in NYC

Rendering of the new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District opening in Spring 2015

The Closing Exhibit

Proving once again that The Whitney is a ground-breaker when it comes to modern American art, the museum decided to go out with a bang (more like the brightly-colored confetti type than the gun powder type – you’ll see why later) by choosing to use almost the entirety of their exhibit space to cover the 35 year career of artist Jeff Koons for their last exhibit.

Those familiar with the art world no doubt know exactly who he is. Those not so familiar with the art world probably still recognize the name as he made headlines recently when Las Vegas casino magnate, Steve Wynn purchased his sculpture of ‘Popeye’ for $28m. The year before that he also sold a ‘Balloon Dog (Orange)’ piece for $58.4m, which is the most expensive work of art ever sold by a living artist at an auction.

Whether you are a fan of his or not (trust me the critics are very divided on the issue of whether this is actual ‘art’) it is unarguable that Koons is one of the most influential and renowned artists of our time and this exhibit is not to be missed.

Jeff Koons: A Retrospective

As this piece of prose is centered around an art exhibit, I felt it apropos to tell you about my visit in photos and captions…..

Me and Derby in front of the Whitney Museum

Waiting in line to get into The Whitney with my friend Derby. (I had a much cooler and candid pic of her not enjoying having her picture taken that was pretty funny. Like I predicated on the original caption, she made me take it down! Sry!)


Jeff Koons at the Whitney

We wanted to avoid the crowd as much as we could so we decided to start on the top floor and make our way down. This is MOON from his CELEBRATION series which honored the memory of his son who was kidnapped by his ex-wife and taken to Rome.


Me at the Jeff Koons Exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC

I felt like a little kid again in this room with all the bright colors and shiny surfaces. Looking into MOON you can see the large BALLOON DOG, PLAY-DOH, and me in the background.


Jeff Koons at the Whitney

Jeff Koons shows his interest in the readymade in his HULK ELVIS series. Here he combines a functioning organ (the docent gave me a withering stare when I attempted to play it) with an inflatable toy of the heroic and masculine Hulk.


Jeff Koons at the Whitney Museum

From his ANTIQUITY series where he utilized CT scans to help translate his art into the stainless steel media used here.


Jeff Koons at the Whitney Museum

More from the ANTIQUITY series where he drew on paleolithic and classical themes of desire.


Jeff Koons closing exhibit at The Whitney

This EASYFUN ETHEREAL series made me extremely happy. It was just so damn fun! This was made using oil on canvas and copying computerized collages he had created.


Jeff Koons at Rockefeller Center

Didn’t get enough of Jeff Koons? No worries – head on over to Rockefeller Center and see his SPLIT-ROCKER display.

Want some more NYC ideas? Check this post on 150 Things Locals Do In New York City.

Will you be going to The Whitney before she closes? What are some of your favorite exhibits? Tell me below!

30 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye (sort of) to the Whitney Museum: A Day of Jeff Koons

  1. Oh modern art… you sometimes take us for a ride… As an educated person, I have a great respect for all sorts of art, and art installations, but there was one piece at the Tate Modern in London, where the artist displayed a flat piece of paper, which was indistinguishable from the colour of the wall, and I had almost walked past it, thinking it was a work in progress, or that there was nothing there, but after reading that the plaque, it turned out that the artist was trying to convey a “feeling of flatness” – to which I promptly burst out laughing, and had to escape to the terrace, lest I had someone tell me to leave altogether. Out of all modern art genres, I have to say that I like abstract painting the most.

    • [email protected] says:

      Haha I completely know what you mean. There are some pieces that I just don’t get. Weirdly enough I had a similar experience at the Tate Modern. There was a clear glass filled with water and it was entitled ‘The Tree’. That was it. haha I fill a glass with water everyday during lunch and I’m not getting it displayed in galleries :)

    • [email protected] says:

      The installation was way more impressive in person! Pictures just don’t do it justice! You’ll enjoy it.

  2. I had no idea the Whitney was moving! Maybe because its new digs are in a cooler part of town than the UES? I haven’t been in several years, so I’ll have to say goodbye at the Madison Ave. location before it moves. Love that Hulk piece!

    • [email protected] says:

      Yeah their new building does look pretty impressive and will be mostly floor to ceiling windows and column free so that it’s ‘all about the art, not the building’. Definitely go say goodbye. The Met is taking over the Madison location.

    • [email protected] says:

      Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it! It really was quite cool in person and yes very fun!!

  3. “If you’re tired of viewing artwork from long dead guys like …” 😀 That made me laugh. It´s true and that´s why I´m not (always) a museum fan. But the Whitney Museum looks like a lot of fun.

    • [email protected] says:

      Haha it really was fun! I studied Classical Archaeology in college and I must say after a while all the Greek and Roman statues started to all look alike so this was a refreshing change!

    • [email protected] says:

      You must! The pictures don’t do the funkiness of it justice. It was super cool.

    • [email protected] says:

      You’re right! The new one does look super cool! I’m excited for it to open.

    • [email protected] says:

      I saw it there too! It’s much more impressive and large in person than in photos!

  4. Wow. I haven’t been to the Whitney in over 20 years. That makes me feel old.

    I’m not a big Koons fan but retrospectives like this are useful as cultural barometers, for instance to illustrate, among other things, how otherworldly has the contemporary art world become. One estimate of the value of the works on display in this retrospective is just over half a billion dollars. (Art Forum or Art Net. Can’t remember.)

    • [email protected] says:

      I completely agree with you Bob. And yes it is insane to think about how much all the art in the building is worth. I bet that’s one hell of an insurance policy the artist and museum has!

  5. Love modern art exhibit. Always been a bit jealous of the US where you get so many great exhibits all the time.
    Ok we get quite some too in Europe but they aren’t just as many or as diverse! Would have loved to see this one!

    • [email protected] says:

      Make your way over to NYC before Oct :)

  6. I love modern art museums – they always give you so much to look at and think about. And quite often the buildings are just as interesting as the art – it looks as if the new location will be a different experience from the old one.

    • [email protected] says:

      Agreed. At least the new museum is in a very trendy area with tons of smaller modern galleries around so it fits in perfectly.

  7. I wish I could go before it closes! But at least it’s re-opening in a new location. :) It definitely sounds like they went out with a bang. Jeff Koons is so creative. I don’t like some of his stuff, but I went to go see the Puppy sculpture in Bilbao that uses a similar plant idea as the SPLIT-ROCKER you have a shot of.

    • [email protected] says:

      It is amazing what people can do with leaves and flowers! I don’t have a creative bone in my body!!

  8. Hi Kristen, Your dad told me to start following you!!
    I am coming to NYC in October to see the Koons exhibit with my brother! Love the post and your blog. I will email you when it gets closer. Maybe we can meet up. We will try not to act like tourist but I can’t promise. xox- Sonthe

  9. I’m within tha fan of Koons and I have to say that choosing the artist for the last exhibit is the perfect way to say ‘See you soon’! I think that even people who don’t like his art are somehow fascinated and curious about his works. I once saw a Koons exhibition inside the Palace of Versailles and the contrast between the Baroque art, which is the excess of the past, and the sleek Koons style was incredible. A closing with the bang makes you wander what they will open with. Enjoy contemporary art New Yorkers!

    • [email protected] says:

      Thanks Carlotta. I couldn’t agree more. If you love Koons – there is a new museum opening in LA called The Broad. The owners are one of the of the most prestigious private collectors. They’ve accumulated over 2,000 pieces (including several Koons) and wanted to finally exhibit their collection to the public. Many of these pieces have not been seen by the public before. I’m not sure of the exact date but I think it will be open later this year.!

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