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The Whitney Women and the Museum They Made:…

The Whitney Women and the Museum They Made: A Family Memoir

by Flora Miller Biddle

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When I saw this biography in a used bookstore, I recalled two things that I've heard about the Whitney Museum: 1) that it was founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney after her offer to gift her artworks to another museum was declined and 2) artist Edward Hopper's widow, also an artist, had donated to the Whitney Museum a large collection of both their works; the Whitney destroyed most of her works (after her death).

The author is Flora Miller Biddle, the founder's granddaughter who was president of the Whitney for a time -- and in between, Flora Whitney Miller (Gertrude's daughter, Flora Biddle's mother) was in charge.

Relatively little is discussed about how Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney founded the Whitney Museum, but a lot more is covered by Biddle about the eras that Flora Miller and Flora Biddle (herself)were at the helm. When this book was published back in 1999, Biddle was no longer president of the Whitney. She seems to use this book mainly as an instrument to explain why some decisions were made under her presidency and many regrets and mistakes. She is often wondering whether this or that should have been done, or not been done.

It's a fascinating book, though. Makes me convinced there is no way I would want to be at the top hierarchy of a museum. It's a lot of work trying to woo billionaires to give -- Biddle mentions more than once how it is hard for them to part with their own money. The museum often operated in the red. When I was curious what happened with the Whitney since the book was published, I was surprised to find out they are building a new structure along the NYC waterfront that will open in 2015.

And there's no mention whatsoever of how or why Jo Hopper's work was deaccessioned. But there's more than one mention of how fortunate the Whitney was to acquire much of Edward Hopper's works. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Oct 28, 2014 |
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?Courageous in her revelations and astute in her observations of human behavior.?- The New York Times Book Review Until Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney opened her studio on Eight Street in Manhattan in 1914? which evolved into the Whitney Museum almost two decades later?there were few art museums in the United States, let alone galleries for contemporary artists to exhibit their work. When the mansions of the wealthy cried out for art they sought it from Europe, then the art capital of the world. It was in her tiny sculptor?s studio in Greenwich Village that Whitney began holding exhibitions of contemporary American Artists. This remarkable effort by a scion of America?s wealthiest family helped to change the way art was cultivated in America. The Whitney Women and the Museum They Made is a tale in which high ideals, extraordinary altruism, and great dedication that stood steadfast against inflated egos, big business, intrigue, and the harsh realities of today?s world. Flora Biddle?s sensitive and insightful memoir is a success story of three generations of forceful, indomitable women.… (more)

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