Step One: Reserve your tickets in advance. Or, better yet, buy a membership, because the line is very long (with a membership, it took me five minutes to enter from the outside, use the bathroom, check my bag, and get to the top observation deck. Five minutes. And the Whitney Museum just opened).
Step Two: Take the A, C, E, or L train to the 14th street and 8thavenue stop. Be sure to admire the sculptures in the station, because this is NYC, and art is everywhere, even in the dirty subway stations. Walk over to 9th avenue and the Meatpacking District. Feel that air of superiority as tourists scurry around you with their selfie sticks to wait in line for the bathroom at Starbucks — all the while avoiding that pang of inferiority as you scurry around fashion models and Mickey Rourke — because you’re not one of them. You’re going to the Whitney, damn it.
Step Three: Stop to eat at the Gansevoort Market at 52 Gansevoort Street. They have many purveyors of food including: Thai, Italian sandwiches, crepes, organic teas, falafel, and some of the salesman chat you up and are hilarious. You can sit at their bar and order quickly.
Or, if you’re in too much of a hurry to get to the Whitney Museum, you can bring food in. They don’t seem to search your bag (they didn’t with mine, and I asked a security guard, and he said it was okay as long as you don’t eat inside), so you can eat at one of the many outdoor terraces. It’s up to you. If neither of those options is appealing to you, you can eat in the museum, but be prepared to wait for a table.
Step Four: Look at the Whitney and all of its massiveness from Gansevoort Street. Take a picture if you want. Try not to be persuaded by what the architecture critics have said. Ask yourself, “Do I like this?”
Step Five: Start at the top and work your way down.
Now, maybe you do this anyway, but at the Whitney Museum it’s a particularly great idea because the top three floors are all linked with outdoor steps, so you can avoid taking the stairs or elevator. Instead, you can simultaneously take in the exhibition, America Is Hard to See — levels eight through five, which is a retrospective of the history of American art, while you enjoy the sculpture garden outside along with gorgeous panoramic views of New York City.
Level 8 Highlights: Ralston’s Crawford’s, Steel Foundry, Coatesville, PA, and Elsie Drigg’s, Pittsburgh.
Level 7 Highlights: Norman Lewis’, Untitled and John Chamberlain’s, Velvet White.
Step Six: Stop at the level six outdoor terrace and lay in this reclining chair. In the afternoon it faces the sun, and you can bask in the glow of NYC, art, your life, and repeat the words of Renzo Piano, “Beauty will save the world.” The chair also has perfect support for your back, so you can browse through the photos you’ve taken so far, and do some reading up on the art you’ve seen.
Step Seven: Back to the art, and America Is Hard To See.
Step Eight: Reluctantly take the stairs or elevator to level five.
Step Nine: Go to the west side window on level five and notice that it looks directly at the New York City Department of Sanitation and a series of dump trucks. Appreciate the irony of this — they built a huge window just to look at that (side note: it’s hard to find a picture of the garbage trucks. No major media outlet seems to acknowledge this).
Level 5 Highlights: Chuck Close’s, Phil (which is not Lou Reed), Nam June Paik’s, V-raymid, Jeff Koons’, New Hoover Convertibles, Green Blue, New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Blue, Doubledecker, and Cory Arcangel’s,Super Mario Clouds
P.S. Level 5 is HUGE, politically oriented, and super sensory. It could just be called, America Is Dumb.
Step Ten: Go outside to the fifth floor terrace and peer over the edge to watch people walk on the High Line. Notice how much fun they are having, how they are beaming with positivity and optimism. Now, go over to the south side and look at Weichel Beef, and think to yourself, “Wow, they really do still pack meat around here.”
Step Eleven: Awkwardly stare at the Whitney staff working on level four in glass rooms and think to yourself, “Wait, am I lost . . . . ? Is there art here . . . ? What are they talking about . . . ?”
Step Twelve: Ask someone working there if there’s anything else left to see. They are all so polite and super helpful. They’ll tell you that there’s another gallery on the first floor, which is actually open to the public.
Level 1 Highlight: John Sloan’s, Backyards, Greenwich Village.
Step Thirteen: Step outside and stand in front of the new Whitney and consider your own feeling towards the design of the new building. Think about how the inside and the outside compliment one another. Think about how immense it is, how you could spend a whole day in there, and about its presence, in the Meatpacking District, downtown, New York City, and the world.