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Whitney Museum announces inaugural exhibits

NEW YORK (AP) — The Whitney Museum of American Art will open its new downtown Manhattan home next year with an exhibition of works from its permanent collection, followed by shows dedicated to artists including Archibald Motley and Frank Stella, museum officials said Thursday.

Officials made the announcement at the unfinished facility, offering a behind-the-scenes look as construction continues at the space next to the High Line elevated park and looking out on the Hudson River. The new museum, the Whitney's fourth home since it was founded in 1930, is expected to open in Spring 2015.

The building "truly is the fulfillment of a dream," said Adam Weinberg, the Whitney's director. The new space vastly increases the amount of display room. The inaugural show will use more than 60,000 square-feet of indoor and outdoor exhibition area to showcase items from the Whitney's collection. A team of curators has been going through the holdings — rediscovering hidden gems along the way — to determine what should be on display.

"It's going to be a revelation for us to see our collection as we've never shown it before, as much as it will be for the public," Weinberg said. Exhibitions focusing on specific artists will follow the opening. Along with Motley and Stella, showcased artists will include Laura Poitras and David Wojnarowicz, as well as works from the collection of Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich Wagner. The collection includes more than 500 objects that have been promised to the Whitney.

The asymmetrical glass, steel and concrete building designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano is meant to reflect the industrial origins of its neighborhood. In addition to increasing room for exhibitions, the new building includes some spaces the museum has never had before like classrooms, a theater and a study center.

The total cost of the project, including money for the endowment, is $720 million. With its location right next to the Hudson, the museum also took steps to protect against flooding. Weinberg said a German company was brought in to install a system that includes enhanced waterproofing in the basement; a mobile flood barrier system that can be deployed in case of extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy, and a flood gate system to protect areas like the loading docks.

Heiress and sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney founded the museum, which concentrates on American artists from the 20th and 21st centuries.

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