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Sotheby’s buys modernist Breuer building from Whitney Museum and it will move NYC galleries there

It will start moving its New York sale room and galleries to the Breuer building on Madison Avenue in 2024. The facility will open to the public in 2025

Whitney Museum of American Art
The Whitney Museum of American Art, center, is shown on New York's Madison Avenue, Jan. 25, 2005.Bebeto Matthews (AP)

The auction house Sotheby’s will buy the modernist Marcel Breuer-designed building that housed New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art for nearly 50 years, Sotheby’s announced Thursday.

Sotheby’s will start moving its New York sale room and galleries to the Breuer building on Madison Avenue in 2024 and will open to the public the following year, the auction house announced.

“We are honored to acquire and write the next chapter of such an iconic and well-known New York architectural landmark,” Sotheby’s Chief Executive Officer Charles F. Stewart said in a statement.

The cantilevered Madison Avenue building designed by the Hungarian-born Breuer opened in 1966 as the third home of the Whitney, which had been founded in 1930 to showcase American art. The five-story granite and concrete structure is considered an important example of the architectural style known as brutalism.

The building was leased to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for five years after the Whitney’s 2015 move to its new Renzo Piano-designed building at the foot of the High Line, the elevated park on Manhattan’s west side. The Met operated the former Whitney building as the Met Breuer until 2020, and the Frick Collection has occupied the building since 2021 while its permanent home is being renovated.

Sotheby’s is buying the building from the Whitney for an undisclosed sum.

“The iconic Breuer Building will always be a beloved part of the Whitney’s rich history,” Whitney Director Adam Weinberg said. “We are pleased that it will continue to serve an artistic and cultural purpose through the display of artworks and artifacts.”

The art-loving public will retain access to the building after Sotheby’s moves in, as the auction house puts works on display before they are sold. The Breuer building a block from Central Park is more centrally located than Sotheby’s current global headquarters on York Avenue on Manhattan’s far east side.

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