“In 1931, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney created the Whitney Museum of American Art in a Greenwich Village brownstone and ran it with a narrow circle of family and friends. It was a downtown alternative to the traditional conception of a museum, offering a venue for provocative contemporary art instead of staid old masters. In the 1970s, the Whitney changed. It moved to a new home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side—an iconic Marcel Breuer building where it still resides—and added a number of “outside”...

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