Untitled (Foyer of the Whitney Museum of American Art on 8th Street, NYC)
Not on view
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 9 7/8 × 8in. (25.1 × 20.3 cm) Image: 9 5/8 × 7 5/8in. (24.5 × 19.4 cm)
Purchase, with funds from Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo and the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Fund at the Communities Foundation of Texas
Rights and reproductions
©Berenice Abbott / Commerce Graphics
Throughout the 1930s, Berenice Abbott trained her camera on New York City: its brownstones, skyscrapers, transportation hubs, neighborhoods, and people. Although her work was neither sociological nor propagandistic, Abbott strove to capture the rapid transformations of the city as it entered a new phase of modernization. This meant documenting spaces under threat of destruction while also capturing sites of urban renewal. One example of the latter was the Whitney Museum of American Art, which opened its doors to the public in a group of renovated brownstones on West 8th Street in Lower Manhattan on November 18, 1931. In this depiction of the museum’s foyer—an unusual image for Abbott, since she rarely shot interiors—the entry space is carefully framed so as to highlight its elegance. The graceful curves of the staircase and chandelier in concert with the figurative sculptures lend the environment a near-classical air. The sculpture in the foreground, at the base of the stairs, is by the Museum’s founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who was an accomplished artist in her own right.