Sotheby’s has confirmed the rumors that it has purchased the Whitney Museum of American Art’s iconic Brutalist building designed by Marcel Breuer on Madison Avenue. Sotheby’s will relocate its headquarters from York Avenue to the Breuer building in 2025. The purchase price of the building was not disclosed, but sources familiar with the deal estimate it to be around $100 million.
For the Whitney Museum, parting with the Breuer building is bittersweet. The director, Adam D. Weinberg, described the building as a masterpiece of modern architecture and one of the great art monuments. However, with the museum’s expansion in its new Renzo Piano-designed headquarters and a more accessible presence downtown, retaining the Breuer building no longer made sense for the Whitney. The museum has doubled its exhibition space and prefers not to be landlords.
For Sotheby’s, the acquisition of the Breuer building is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Moving closer to the heart of the Upper East Side art world, the location provides an ideal setting for Sotheby’s client base to view art, attend sales, and meet with specialists. Sotheby’s plans to reimagine the building’s interior, including creating a salesroom, while preserving the integrity of the beloved lobby.
The move to the Breuer building represents a return to Sotheby’s roots, as the auction house previously occupied the Parke-Bernet Galleries across Madison Avenue. The new location will allow for increased foot traffic and public engagement with Sotheby’s exhibitions, especially the pre-auction previews.
The fate of the Breuer building had been uncertain since the Whitney moved downtown in 2015. The building was leased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for six years, presenting contemporary art as the Met Breuer. The Met’s lease ended in 2021, and the Frick Collection has been utilizing the space while its mansion on Fifth Avenue undergoes renovation.
The Breuer building, designed by Marcel Breuer, has been widely regarded as an ideal space for showcasing modern and contemporary art. Its distinctive architectural features and design elements have garnered praise for their finesse and functionality.
Sotheby’s plans to take over the Breuer building in September 2024, after the Frick Collection leaves, and will move in the following year. The auction house will retain ownership of its current headquarters on York Avenue, where it will continue to operate until the relocation.
Overall, the acquisition of the Breuer building by Sotheby’s represents a significant development in the art world, bringing together two iconic institutions and creating new opportunities for the appreciation and sale of art.