It's only been two days since the Whitney Museum broke ground on the new Meatpacking District building it has coming in 2015. But the gloves are already off! The first critic to weigh in since Tuesday's glass-breaking, drum-playing extravaganza, New York Magazine's Justin Davidson, really, really doesn't like what "hyperdistinguished" architect Renzo Piano has done with the place. And tells us so in an epic smackdown. So epic that it was hard to narrow down our list of favorite zingers. But here they are, taking it from the top:
10) "Now that the museum has finally found the money, the site, and the time to build a fantasy home from scratch...and now that the meatpacking district has been spruced up and made safe for a major cultural brand, the Whitney should be riding a current of raw creative power. Why, then, has it brought uptown uptightness to a neighborhood where not many years ago, the blood of butchered beasts still ran among the cobblestones?"
9) "Whether or not the Whitney was wise to migrate, the design suggests that it has misperceived its future neighborhood, a formerly run-down area where mottled brick, painted iron, and salvaged wood are still pleasingly rough."
8) "In an early sketch, Piano labeled that section galleria per antonomasia—the 'ultimate art gallery,' ultimateness being defined as a featureless expanse."
7) "It’s easy to understand the museum’s desire for maximum flexibility, but is the only way to experience contemporary art really in a huge hall that blends the aesthetic of the Soho loft with the dimensions of a hockey rink?"
6) "Piano’s asymmetrical ziggurat nods to Gehry’s IAC headquarters a few blocks away, but the homage only highlights the disparity in the two architects’ imaginations."
5) "Instead, he has capped the High Line with a pale, metal-clad tower, interlocked with a stack of horizontal blocks that step back in the manner of a clunky cruise ship."
4) "A stairway that is quite ample—but not, as the architect would have it, “grand”— encourages visitors to climb."
3) "Here, though, he has produced a monument to the wrong phase of industry—not the sooty waterfront of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries but the seamless, shiny household objects of his postwar youth. With their enameled metal panels, vast sheets of limpid glass and polished steel trim, the white walls floating just above the blond-wood floors, the renderings of Piano’s Whitney evoke a modern fantasy of manufacturing, populated not by stevedores but by executives and engineers. The result is MoMA South, a thoroughly corporate museum—airy, spacious, efficient, and utterly sterile."
2) "This one is a missed opportunity of majestic proportions."
1) "Even if Piano’s building satisfies every artist’s aspirations and curator’s dream, even if it speeds the sales of Whitney watches and overpriced panini and hosts the most glittering gala soirées—even if it performs all the multifarious tasks that fall to a major museum these days, it still has the makings of a dud. Architectural strategies that would once have seemed bold now look secondhand, having been executed better elsewhere."
· An Out-of-Tune Piano [NYM]
· Whitney Downtown coverage [Curbed]