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The Whitley Museum of American Art was founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who was known as the leading advocate of American Art from 1907 to 1942. During this time artists with innovative ideas were not given opportunities to show and sell their work. Therefore, Whitney would purchase their work and showcase it for them. By doing so, she acquired more than five hundred pieces of art made by American artists. No museum would accept the works, including Metropolitan Museum of Art when she offered to donate it to their collections in 1929. This lead Whitney to open her own museum celebrating American artists and their art.

  • Gertrude Vanderbelt Whitney, November 17, 1931
  • The Whitney Museum of American Art building opened May 1, 2015

Gertrude Vanderbilt Witney was born in 1875 in New York City. Throughout the first two decades of her life she was seen as creative with particular interests in the arts. When she was twenty five years old she began to study sculpture under Hendrick Christian Anderson and James Fraser. Whitney eventually traveled abroad to Paris to study under Andrew O'Connor. Her love of art evolved over this time and became concentrated in American art. She appreciated American artist's works that were often over looked for being too different or unaccepted during the time period. Whitney recognized that she could help give these artists a platform to display their work. Thus, she began a collection of American art, and in 1907 she organized her first art exhibition at he Colony Club that showcased American contemporary paintings. Then, in 1914 she opened the Whitney Studio and it became the home to many of her collections.

In the decades leading up to her death in 1942, Whitney was recognized for her work in sculpture and pursued creative writing by becoming a published author. She continued to champion under appreciated artists by buying there work, commissioning it, opening exhibitions, and even financially supporting these artists. Through out her life Whitney opened a number of other studios in America and Europe proving that she was truly the leading advocate for these artists. 

The Whitney Studio eventually became the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1931. The Museum moved from it's original location on West Eighth Street in Greenwich Village to a larger site on West 54th Street in 1954. Continued expansion of the Museum's collections caused the need for relocation again in 1963. The new building on Madison Avenue at 75th Street opened in 1966 and remained in operation until October 20, 2014. The present location of the Whitney Museum of American Art opened on May 1, 2015 at 99 Gansevoort Street. 

Today, the Museum's collection has expanded to include over 21,000 pieces. The collection's works were created by over 3,000 artists in the U.S. Whitney's original and founding collection of approximately 600 pieces of American works is included in today's collection. The Whitney Museum of American Art offers lectures, readings, tours, workshops, and family programs to the public, and offers free digital access to selections from exhibitions, performances, audio guides, and more. The Museum continues it's original mission to be a platform for American artists to showcase their work.

"History of the Whitney." Whitney Museum of American Art. "Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Papers, 1851-1975, bulk, 1888-1942." Archives of American Art.