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Tours

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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 holdings of twentieth-century American art in the world—is the Museum's key resource. The Museum's flagship 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 important figures as Jasper Johns, Jay DeFeo, Glenn Ligon, Cindy Sherman, and Paul Thek were given their first comprehensive museum surveys at the Whitney. The Museum has consistently purchased works within the year they were created, often well before the artists who created them became broadly recognized.

Designed by architect Renzo Piano and situated between the High Line and the Hudson River, the Whitney's current 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.

Where We Are

Solo en Inglès

Hear directly from artists and curators on selected works from Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960.

Louise Bourgeois, Quarantania, 1941

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Mark Joshua Epstein: We are looking at the artwork Quarantania by the artist Louise Bourgeois. What are your questions about this artwork?

Student 1: Well I don’t even know what it is. They’re all kind of the same shape, but they’re different.

Student 2: It reminds me of tall buildings, maybe skyscrapers.

Student 3: It reminds me of writing utensils, and maybe they also chose to simplify writing utensils and make it a sculpture.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Just to give you some information about the artist and the artworkLouise Bourgeois was born in France, and this sculpture was made in 1941, which is three years after she emigrated to New York, so she had moved here three years earlier with her husband. She had adopted a child in 1939 back in France and then had two children in quick succession. I'm wondering now as you look at the sculpture if you see anything that could represent a family.

Student 1: I kind of see that it's like a bunch of simplified people, kind of. I see in the middle one in front there are two little holes which kind of look like eyes.

Student 2: I can see in some of the pieces there are circles inside, and maybe that's representing people's faces.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Louise Bourgeois's family in France had a business where they would restore carpets and tapestries, so they would fix them when they got broken. So she has spoken before about these being needles, sewing needles. Does anybody see that in the piece?

Student 1: Now I do, because the holes may represent the eye of the needle, but then she made it into a person.

A sculpture of long white poles with blue inserts at the top.

Mark Joshua Epstein: We are looking at the artwork Quarantania by the artist Louise Bourgeois. What are your questions about this artwork?

Student 1: Well I don’t even know what it is. They’re all kind of the same shape, but they’re different.

Student 2: It reminds me of tall buildings, maybe skyscrapers.

Student 3: It reminds me of writing utensils, and maybe they also chose to simplify writing utensils and make it a sculpture.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Just to give you some information about the artist and the artworkLouise Bourgeois was born in France, and this sculpture was made in 1941, which is three years after she emigrated to New York, so she had moved here three years earlier with her husband. She had adopted a child in 1939 back in France and then had two children in quick succession. I'm wondering now as you look at the sculpture if you see anything that could represent a family.

Student 1: I kind of see that it's like a bunch of simplified people, kind of. I see in the middle one in front there are two little holes which kind of look like eyes.

Student 2: I can see in some of the pieces there are circles inside, and maybe that's representing people's faces.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Louise Bourgeois's family in France had a business where they would restore carpets and tapestries, so they would fix them when they got broken. So she has spoken before about these being needles, sewing needles. Does anybody see that in the piece?

Student 1: Now I do, because the holes may represent the eye of the needle, but then she made it into a person.


Louise Bourgeois, Quarantania, 1941. Painted wood, 84 × 29 1/4 × 31 1/4 in. (213.4 × 74.3 × 79.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of an anonymous donor 77.80 Art © Louise Bourgeois Trust, licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.