On the new Whitney Museum, designed by Renzo Piano

Panero11James Panero at The New Criterion:

What’s a museum? This is the question I asked in these pages some years ago, and one that museums now seem compelled to answer with ever more emphatic declarations. It is said that museums have gone from “being about something” to “being for somebody,” racing to shed their old skins and remaking themselves in our image. So all museums must now become revisions, articulated interventions and reinterpretations of their former selves and their place in the cultural world—a compulsion now embraced by the new Whitney.

We have heard the modern museum referred to as a “white box.” Here is the museum as sky-box, an institution built as much to be looked out of as looked in to, a place where see-and-be-seen has moved from the periphery to the main event. The difference between these two experiences, between the outside looking in and the inside looking out, defines the design. Indeed, the dichotomy reflects, reverses, and luxuriates in a quality of outsiderness that has always pervaded this particular institution.

The new Whitney Museum, designed by Renzo Piano and Renzo Piano Building Workshop, along with Cooper Robertson, at a cost of $422 million, opened to much fanfare on May 1.

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