The Metropolitan Museum of Art is in talks to lease the Whitney Museum of Art’s building just a few blocks south, according to Artinfo, if, and most likely when, the Whitney relocates to a meatpacking district location. Neither institution could be reached for comment, but Whitney president Robert Hurst and director Adam Weinberg jubilantly welcomed attendees to the museum’s swanky annual Art Gala last month with predictions that the expansion was a certainty, even though it had appeared to be dead in the water since the initial announcement years earlier. Whitney insiders said it would be difficult for the institution to continue to run both buildings.
At 945 Madison Avenue (75th Street), the Whitney building, designed by legendary architect Marcel Breuer, is six blocks from the Metropolitan, which is not able to easily expand its 2 million–square–foot footprint due to the surrounding Central Park.
Whitney Chairman emeritus and cosmetics king Leonard Lauder—who did not attend the lush spring fete—in 2008 donated $131 million to the institution for the expansion, but with the proviso that the museum essentially not give up its Breuer building. Insiders said Mr. Lauder actually was a strong supporter of expansion for the Whitney—and indeed, was instrumental in finding the downtown space—but did not want a wholesale move from the Upper East Side flagship that has been the museum’s home since 1966. A temporary leasing of the space to the Met could be an interim, and a face-saving, solution that would maintain the architectural masterwork as an arts insititution.
The tentative official plans now call for the Whitney to merely add a satellite at Washington and Gansevoort Streets, adjacent to the buzzy nightclub scene of the Standard Hotel. The project’s cost is estimated at upward of $600 million.