Roy Lichtenstein’s studio, much more than a bequest to the Whitney

Roy Lichtenstein’s studio, much more than a bequest to the Whitney

Christine de Grancy — Roy and Dorothy Lichtenstein

With the gift of Roy Lichtenstein’s studio, the Whitney Museum receives not only a priceless gift, but makes a commitment to preserve the legacy of one of the key figures of 20th-century art.

Image: Roy and Dorothy Lichtenstein in Lichtenstein’s Washington Street studio, circa 1992. Estate of Roy Lichtenstein, courtesy of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Archives. Photograph © Christine de Grancy. Image via whitneymedia.org.

Founded in 1930, the Whitney Museum of American Art was committed from the outset to exhibiting works by contemporary American artists, who at the time were rejected by major institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum (more focused on Old Master painting) or the Museum of Modern Art, founded almost at the same time as the Whitney, but then more interested in European modernism. This commitment to young artists, to the extent that the Whitney was the first museum to exhibit the work of many of the artists now considered undisputed figures of 20th century art, bore fruit decades later. Just a fortnight ago, the Cy Twombly Foundation provided funding for a new endowed position at the Whitney Museum, “in acknowledgment of Cy Twombly’s long relationship with the Whitney, which in 1979 was the first New York museum to present a solo exhibition of his work”.

With respect to Roy Lichtenstein, perhaps the most recognisable figure of American Pop Art alongside Andy Warhol, the foundation that bears his name, chaired by his widow Dorothy Lichtenstein, announced back in 2018 the donation of more than 400 works by the artist (including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs), and even then hinted that one of the Foundation’s goals was that the artist’s studio, located a few blocks from the Whitney Museum building, would in the future become managed by the museum.

The confirmation of the gift of the Studio, made public this week, is not only a priceless gift, but a commitment by the Museum to preserve the legacy of one of the key figures of 20th century art. For the time being, the Whitney has commissioned the architectural firm Johnston Marklee to renovate the studio building at 741/45 Washington Street in Manhattan.

“I can’t think of a more meaningful use for the studio than for the Whitney to carry his legacy far into the future,” said Dorothy Lichtenstein. As part of these uses, the Museum has already announced that it will move its Independent Study Program (ISP) to the studio in the summer of 2023, coinciding with Roy Lichtenstein’s centennial. During the summers, the building will host a range of educational programmes. #2022 #RoyLichtenstein #theartwolf #WhitneyMuseum

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