Tuesday, January 10, 2006

When a Museum Building Competes With Art

By RANDY KENNEDY @ New York Times

When Marcel Breuer was planning his brooding Whitney Museum building on Madison Avenue in the early 1960's, he was adamant about creating a space where art could hold its own. His first priority for the interior, he wrote, was the "simplicity and background-character of the gallery spaces, with the visitors' attention reserved to the exhibits."

But curators and artists have nonetheless sometimes found themselves wrestling with the relentless Brutalist grid of Breuer's ceiling and the grid echoed below by the split-slate floors. One day several months ago, the artist Richard Tuttle and David Kiehl, a Whitney curator, paced around the museum's third floor planning the artist's retrospective, which opened last November. Mr. Tuttle - whose art can seem delicate enough to evaporate under a viewer's gaze - was worried about his work being overpowered by the ceiling and the floor.


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