The museum was established by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who was a well-known sculptor and collector of American artists. By 1929, she had already collected 700 pieces of art by modern artists, and tried to show it to the general public when she offered the collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan refused the donation and requirements by Whitney. She did not let go of the motion to show her collection to the public, and decided to established a museum herself, to show her collection.
During the founding, Flora Payne, Gertrude's daughter, was the curator. As the years went by, she filled more and more important roles in the frame of the museum (President and Chairman of the Museum). The museum was kept in the family, with prominent roles being taken by Gertrude's grandchildren.
In 1966 the museum moved to Madison Avenue in Manhattan. This building was planned by architects Marcel Breuer and Hamilton P. Smith between 1963-1966. In 2015 it was moved to its current location, at the start of the High Line, planned by the famous architect Renzo Piano. Every two years the museum hosts an event called Biennale, an event dedicated to current art.
To try to solve this problem, temporary exhibits were displayed in different buildings, and openings official museum chapters around the city, but this was still not enough to give an answer to the problem. The most successful answer was a lot that was found on the southern edge of the High Line, where Renzo Piano planned the museum to contain double the display space the museum had before.
Today, the museum is located in a neighborhood that is slowly become more and more a tourist destination. The area is full of galleries, and is located in the heart of culture and entertainment. This provides the museum the opportunity to widen its crowd of visitors, and give more people the opportunity to be exposed to the respected collection.
The large spaces, inside and out, the great lighting, a new crowd of visitors - all these ensure that the museum's new location is, after all, the best for it.
On the ground floor, the walls are transparent and give the feeling of proximity to the street. There is an attempt to make it so the street will "walk through" the museum, and will not give an impression of change from the street to the museum. The clear glass panels are held with stainless steel cables.
Between the floors 1-4 are different museum rooms: study rooms, offices, an auditorium, and more. Between floors 5-8 you will find the display halls. The large space between the ground floor and the exhibition spaces is traversed by elevators that feed them directly to the relevant floor. The stairwells of the building are partly located in internal spaces and some are external. This allows you to look at impressive statues set against an urban backdrop. Original and unusual.
The planners and curators encourage proper use of the museum's structure, as an important tool in presenting the work and exposing it to visitors. The classic concrete floors were replaced by strips of recycled pine wood, which allow artists to use them for the purposes of the works. The exposed steel angles located along the ceiling allow heavy works to be hung. The fifth floor, the first of the exhibit floors, was built as an open space with no columns, to provide space for different installments, according to the exhibit needs.