In the heart of the art district
It is a mythical building in New York which is about to experience a new life. Sotheby’s announced on 1is June, its intention to buy the imposing Breuer Building, designed by the Hungarian-born architect and designer Marcel Breuer (1902-1981), from the Whitney Museum of American Art, to make it its new headquarters. By moving to 945 Madison Avenue, at the intersection with 75e Street and a stone’s throw from Central Park, the auction house will approach the heart of the art district, in the very chic Upper East Side, where illustrious museums and renowned galleries such as Gagosian abound. . If the amount of the transaction has not been publicly disclosed, the New York Times evokes a price around 100 million dollars (93.6 million euros).
A stunning building
In 1963, the Whitney Museum commissioned the architect Marcel Breuer, a figure of modernism who had lived in the United States for more than twenty years, to design a new setting for it. Associated with brutalism for his use of raw concrete, the former Bauhaus student co-constructed the UNESCO headquarters in Paris five years earlier, and his B3 armchair, renamed Wassily in homage to the painter Kandinsky, is already famous. Completed in 1966, the building, often compared to an inverted ziggurat – this stepped Mesopotamian religious building – defies gravity. As massive as it is angular, it stands out among the brownstone houses and post-war buildings. Critics rage against its gray color, unadorned facade, and sparse polygonal windows.
The box passes from hand to hand
The Whitney Museum will remain at this address for nearly fifty years before reinventing itself in 2015, in a building by Renzo Piano, in the booming Meatpacking district in southwest Manhattan. The Breuer Building then changed its name according to its prestigious occupants. Its future is uncertain when the Metropolitan Museum rents it to make it an antenna for contemporary art. But the Met backtracked a few years later for financial reasons. In 2021, it gives way to the Frick Collection, which is seeking shelter during the renovation, planned until 2024, of its premises in the Ve Ave. The curators of the museum embrace the particularities of the site to highlight their Rembrandts, Vermeers and Van Dycks.
Place au grand public
Sotheby’s will take possession of the Breuer Building in 2025, after the departure of the Frick Collection. If the building itself is not classified, it is located in a classified historic district by New York City. The auction house intends to keep this “iconic architectural masterpiece” while calling on a professional, “to revise the interior spaces in a sensitive way and preserve key elements such as the remarkable entrance hall”. In addition to a sales room, galleries and exhibition spaces open to the public and accessible free of charge will be created in the building. An opportunity to observe some of the greatest works in the world before they return to private homes.