As soon as you get your ticket, take the elevator to the top floor. Look around at the minimalistic drawings by Richard Artschwager decorating the walls as you ascend; this is the only permanent exhibition. The Whitney Museum of American Art—colloquially, The Whitney—is a towering eight floors, and if you want to experience every single thing this museum has to offer, you would do well to give yourself the day. More importantly, work your way downward. Maneuvering the museum this way not only ensures that you see every exhibition, but it will allow you the freedom to enjoy the lovely view of New York City this museum has to offer, as well as the outside terraces. If you wanted to, you could make your way down from the outside, but you may want to leave the terraces as interludes; you have a lot of galleries to go through, and you will want to take a break.
Before stepping outside and taking in the views and the sculpture gardens that accompany them, get something light at The Studio Cafe; enjoy a house-soda (the lemon-mint is particularly refreshing) or a cup of coffee while watching Manhattan from above. Once you're satisfied and energized, begin making your way through the museum; you don't even have to begin an exhausting descent: the eighth floor galleries are right next to the café.
Six of the museum's eight floors are dedicated to exhibitions, with the seventh and sixth floors bleeding into each other and holding spaces for larger collections. The Whitney's large collection of portraits, Human Interest, is on display until February 12th, and is well-worth the in-depth exploration, ranging everything from vintage photography to classic portraiture. Enjoy the outdoor sculpture gardens before heading to the 5th floor, which is so big it overtakes any space that would have been given to an outdoor gallery.
The fifth floor is the real show-stopper here, with a spaciousness that rivals even the fluidity of the two previous floors, and a range that allows for much larger, interactive installations. Right now, Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art is on display, and features everything from entire rooms lit up with LED grids to mixed-media exhibitions using projectors and sound manipulation. The space allows for cohesiveness and disparity among the works, and once Dreamlands is replaced, will continue to leave the door open to variety. Unless you've bought tickets to the third floor movie theater in advance, continue to make your way down.
If you want to splurge, get a meal at Untitled, The Whitney's fine-dining restaurant on the ground floor. If not, step out into the West Village. If you did your visit right, it'll be night time. Step away from the museum and take in the grandeur of the building itself, designed by Renzo Piano, the terraces outstretched arms into Manhattan. Really take in the fact that you trekked downward through this colossal monument to the best in contemporary American artwork. Take a deep breath, and keep an eye out for new exhibitions.
E.R. Pulgar© 2016
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