Out with a Bang

The Whitney Museum of American Art’s last uptown affair.

Chuck Close and Milly Glimcher

Change isn’t easy. Or so the saying goes. Though perhaps it’s easier for some than for others.

“This building is so strange. It feels so dated,” mused one woman to her companion as she surveyed the lobby of the Breuer Building, former home to the Whitney Museum of American Art and the site of its annual Gala & Studio Party, sponsored by Louis Vuitton.

In case you haven’t heard, the Whitney is moving downtown. And so Wednesday night’s affair held a special significance.

Besides the priceless artworks that normally dot the walls of the Breuer Building like sprinkles on an ice cream scoop, the most conspicuous thing missing from Wednesday evening’s affair was the celebrities. At a time when it seems every museum from coast-to-coast is wrangling A-list talent for their annual galas, the cocktails held on the 4th floor provided little in the way of star-watching, with the exception of the TV personality Padma Lakshmi and actress Riley Keough. (Tennis champion John McEnroe was there, but he’s also an avid art collector.) Instead the space, which featured a bar built out of wooden packing crates marked “Fragile” and video projections of the new Renzo Piano designed building, was teeming with artists.

“I don’t think they should have given up this space,” remarked Chuck Close. “You don’t give up the flagship.”

At dinner on the third floor, David Stark and his team created a memorial of sorts to all those who have contributed to the Whitney over the years. The walls were covered in a print of the signatures of every artist whose work is in the museum’s permanent collection. Ninety-eight paper lanterns, each covered in the name of an artist who has had a survey show there, hung from the ceiling. And each table represented a different year, and boasted a cube with the names of every exhibition from that particular period.

Whitney co-chairman Brooke Garber Neidich kicked things off, saying, “I came in tonight and I saw [Whitney Director] Adam [Weinberg] and [Whitney co-chair] Robert [J. Hurst] and [Whitney President] Neil [G. Bluhm] and I was so emotional. And they were like, Done.”

“It’s so rare that I go to an event like this and just look around,” said Weinberg. “I’m going to make everyone stand up tonight.” (He did, calling out the staff, former directors and just about every artist in the house.)

“Really, they all stand in for the more than 3,000 artists who have shown here,” he continued, explaining that they had started with 2,600 works of art and now had 21,000, along with almost 15 million visitors over the years.

The official opening of the new Whitney was announced���5.1.15, a palindrome in case you need a mnemonic device—and then Elvis Costello took to the stage for a special performance.

“I assured them I would only play hit tunes,” he said after starting with “Everyday I Write the Book.” “Problem is, I haven’t had any hits. You just heard the one.”

Photos: Out with a Bang

Padma Lakshmi. Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Whitney Museum of American Art.

Chuck Close and Milly Glimcher. Photo by

Claire Distenfeld. Photo by

Adam Weinberg, Brooke Garber Neidich, and Robert Hurst. Photo by

Jeff Koons. Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Whitney Museum of American Art.

Hope Atherton and Gavin Brown. Photo by

George Condo. Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Whitney Museum of American Art.

Sean Avery and Hilary Rhoda. Photo by

Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs. Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Whitney Museum of American Art.

Cindy Sherman and Jonas Mekas. Photo by

Lauren Bush Lauren and David Lauren. Photo by

Riley Keough and Ben Smith-Petersen. Photo by

Lola Schnabel and Julian Schnabel. Photo by

John McEnroe and Patty Smyth. Photo by

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Photo by

Red Grooms and Lysiane Luang. Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Whitney Museum of American Art.

Wes Gordon. Photo by

Beth Rudin DeWoody and Firooz Zahedi. Photo by

Lawrence Weiner and Alice Weiner. Photo by

Francesca Amfitheatrof. Photo by

John McEnroe and Patty Smyth. Photo by

Agnes Gund. Photo by

Brice Marden, Helen Marden, and Vanessa Cornell. Photo by

Raymond McGuire and Thelma Golden. Photo by

Elvis Costello. Photo by

Julie Macklowe. Photo by

Anne Ehrenkranz and Joel Ehrenkrantz. Photo by

Photo by

Audrey Gruss. Photo by

Fred Wilson. Photo by