The Whitney Museum of American Art has agreed to sell its iconic Breuer Building on Madison Avenue to Sotheby’s, marking a tectonic change of guard in the art world, the two institutions announced today. The price wasn’t disclosed, but people familiar with the deal said it was just north of $100 million.
The news marks the end of an era and the beginning of another. Designed by Modernist master Marcel Breuer and completed in 1966, the landmark had been the Whitney’s home until its move to the Meatpacking District in 2015. Since then it’s been occupied by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, currently, by the Frick Collection, which has a lease that runs until August 2024.
Sotheby’s said it will relocate its galleries and auction room to the Breuer in 2025. The new flagship will include state-of-the-art gallery and exhibition space, and a reimagined auction room. The galleries will be free and open to the public, the company said.
The auction house will take possession of the Breuer building in September 2024 and will engage an architect to “sensitively review the internal spaces and maintain key elements such as the building’s striking lobby,” the company said in a press release.
“We are honored to acquire and write the next chapter of such an iconic and well-known New York architectural landmark,” Charles Stewart, Sotheby’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “We often refer to the provenance of artwork, and in the case of The Breuer, there is no history richer than the museum which has housed the Whitney, Metropolitan and Frick collections. The acquisition will further distinguish us as we continue to transform and innovate for our clients.”
Whitney’s director Adam Weinberg said he’s pleased that the Breuer Building “will continue to serve an artistic and cultural purpose through the display of artworks and artifacts,” according to the statement. “Most importantly this architectural masterpiece—thanks to its status in a landmark district—will be preserved.”
The art world has been abuzz about the future of the Breuer Building for the past two years. And the interest from Sotheby’s in the landmark became the talk of the art world in recent months, as Artnet reported.
The acquisition of the Breuer building is an ongoing part of Sotheby’s strategy to grow and enhance its global footprint. In 2024, Sotheby’s will open its new flagship galleries in Hong Kong and Paris. Later this year, Sotheby’s will open Gantry Point in Long Island City, a 240,000 square-foot building which will house state-of-the-art operational facilities to centralize and enhance the handling of artworks.
Sotheby’s will retain ownership of its current global headquarters at 1334 York Avenue, where it’s been since 1980, until it opens its new galleries in the Breuer building in 2025, the company said.