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Meet the Director

About the Whitney

As the preeminent institution devoted to the art of the United States, the Whitney Museum of American Art presents the full range of twentieth-century and contemporary American art, with a special focus on works by living artists. The Whitney is dedicated to collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting American art, and its collection—arguably the finest holding of twentieth-century American art in the world—is the Museum's key resource. The Museum's signature exhibition, the Biennial, is the country's leading survey of the most recent developments in American art.

Innovation has been a hallmark of the Whitney since its beginnings. It was the first museum dedicated to the work of living American artists and the first New York museum to present a major exhibition of a video artist (Nam June Paik in 1982). Such figures as Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, and Cindy Sherman were given their first museum retrospectives by the Whitney. The Museum has consistently purchased works within the year they were created, often well before the artists became broadly recognized. The Whitney was the first museum to take its exhibitions and programming beyond its walls by establishing corporate-funded branch facilities, and the first museum to undertake a program of collection-sharing (with the San Jose Museum of Art) in order to increase access to its renowned collection.

Designed by architect Renzo Piano and situated between the High Line and the Hudson River, the Whitney's new building vastly increases the Museum’s exhibition and programming space, providing the most expansive view ever of its unsurpassed collection of modern and contemporary American art.

Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again

Solo en Inglès

“Andy's work really goes to the heart of the matter of what it means to be a human being and what our potential is…It's the real deal.” —Jeff Koons

Hear from a range of contemporary artists, curators, and scholars speaking about iconic works on view. Contributors include Jeff Koons, Hank Willis Thomas, Deborah Kass, Peter Halley, Sasha Wortzel, and Richard Meyer.

Painting of Marsha P. Johnson.

Sasha Wortzel: My name is Sasha Wortzel, and I'm the Director of Access and Community Programs at the Whitney Museum. I'm also an artist, and together with Tourmaline, I'm the co-creator of a film and art project called Happy Birthday Marsha!, which is about the legendary, iconic Marsha "Pay It No Mind" Johnson and her role in the Stonewall riots of 1969. 

Narrator: Warhol’s series Ladies and Gentlemen focused on crossdressers and trans women. Marsha P. Johnson is one of them—she’s the one wearing a blonde wig with a braid down one side. 

Sasha Wortzel: Something I really love about this series is the way that the sitters really have this glamour, this beauty, that they are gifting to Warhol that really shines through in these images. 

Someone like Marsha P. Johnson, in her daily life, faced a lot of violence. The police, repression, raids on gay bars, policing of sex work, poverty. And despite all that, she was somebody who had this really beautiful, generous spirit and smile, and just the ability to spread her joy in the world, even when the world was dark. And that really comes through in that portrait when I look at her.

Narrator: For contemporary audiences, the series can seem problematic. It constitutes a portrait of a community, but one that had very little say in the manner of their own representation. The sitters were not the intended audience, so were not really considered in the making of the work—in fact Johnson was later kicked out of a gallery that was showing one of Warhol’s portraits of her. Warhol was close with many trans women and cross dressers and often went to the same clubs as them. But he was more of an outsider than an insider in the trans community. Unlike Johnson and some of her contemporaries, he was by no means an activist. Yet in retrospect, the series is an important portrait of a moment in the struggle for queer and trans rights.

Andy Warhol, Ladies and Gentlemen (Marsha P. Johnson), 1975. Acrylic and silkscreen ink on linen, 50 × 40 1⁄8 in. (127 × 101.8 cm). Museum Brandhorst, Munich. © 2018 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York