The Travel Dispatch

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

This post was born 22 Jul, 2014 30 Comments
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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!

Why Suffer From FOMO When You Don’t Have To?

Taking on the classic “round-the-world” route, the next Travel Dispatch journey kicks off Nov 15 as I travel east to west, looping the globe over a period of 12 months with $25,000. Now’s your chance to get in on it from the very beginning!

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

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Milosz Zak
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… Read more »
Sandra @ Tripper

I love all sorts of art. Thank you for this information. Definitely a must-see to keep on the list.

Dave Cole

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!

Michael Huxley

I had no idea this was here! I love museums and love articles that highlight the less well known and less obvious ones! Great post!


Brilliant article and fun to read. I have heard of this museum but never put it on the list. The museum pics look like the art is quite random in it so quite a fun experience 🙂


“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.


I really like this weird kind of art and of I ever go to New York this post will definitely bring me to the Whitney Museum. 🙂

Mindi @ 2foodtrippers

I haven’t been to the Whitney in years. It’s sad that’s the museum is moving, but the new location next to the High Line looks pretty cool.


I love Jeff Koons! I remember when the Met had his balloon dog on the roof top terrace. 🙂

Bob R

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.)


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!

Karen Warren

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.

Jessica (Barcelona Blonde)

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.


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

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what a perfect information


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!

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