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Downtown Branch Exhibition Records

Identifier: NNWhit.017

Scope and Contents

The collection comprises exhibition records from the museum’s first satellite branch in lower Manhattan. Closely aligned with the Independent Study Program, the Downtown Branch (1973-1992) provided a space for young scholars in the fields of art history and museum studies. Many records document early exhibitions organized by ISP Helena Rubenstein Curatorial Fellows, such as “Nine Artists/Coenties Slip” (January 10-February 14, 1974), and “The Prison Show: realities and representations” (April 21-June 12, 1981), and “Site Seeing: Travel and Tourism in Contemporary Art” (April 3-June 7, 1991).


  • 1970-1992

Biographical / Historical

On September 19, 1973, with the primary purpose of increasing the audience for American art, the Whitney Museum of American Art opened its first satellite branch on the third floor of the 53-story Uris Building at 55 Water St in downtown Manhattan. The branch was initially funded by twenty-nine businesses from the downtown community. Viewed by many as a vital cultural resource, the branch offered free admission and public programs to as many as 70,000 visitors each year. The Downtown Branch originally operated under the direction of David Hupert, then Head of the Whitney’s Education Department and the Independent Study Program. Helena Rubenstein Fellows participating in the Whitney’s Independent Study Program selected, organized, and installed the bulk of the exhibitions.

In 1980, Olympia & York, new owners of the Uris property, evicted the Downtown branch in order to lease the building for commercial purposes. On October 1st, 1980 the Downtown Branch moved from 55 Water Street to temporary quarters nearby at 48 Old Slip, the former site of the First Precinct Police Station. Leading up to the move, the Whitney organized “Last Tango at 55,” a series of music and dance performances from September 15th-26th, 1980, at 55 Water st.(1) Addressing the new space, Lisa Phillips (then associate curator, branch museums), Micki McGee, Catherine Queloz, Berenice Reynaud, and Karl Willers organized the exhibition “The Prison Show: Realities and Representations” (April 21-June 12, 1981).

From 1981-1984, the Downtown branch held a temporary exhibition space in the Federal Hall National Memorial at 26 Wall Street.

In the spring of 1986, the Downtown branch opened in a more permanent home at Two Federal Reserve Plaza, a building designed by Philip Johnson and John Burgee. Park Tower Realty and IBM provided support for the construction of the new site, which featured approximately 3,500 square feet of exhibition space. The Downtown branch operated at Two Federal Reserve Plaza until its closure in 1992.


  • New York Times."Downtown Whitney Museum to Move Oct. 1." September 1,1980.
  • Phillips, Lisa, and Whitney Museum of American Art, Downtown Branch. The Prison Show: Realities and Representations. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1981.
  • Whitney Museum of American Art. Made in the Sixties: Painting and Sculpture from the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. New York: The Museum, 1988.
  • Extent

    11 Linear Feet

    Language of Materials



    Materials pertaining to exhibitions presented at the Downtown Branch of the Whitney Museum of American Art, which operated in lower Manhattan from 1973–1992. Many records document early exhibitions organized by curatorial fellows in the Whitney Independent Study Program (ISP), such as Nine Artists/Coenties Slip (January 10–February 14, 1974), The Prison Show: realities and representations (April 21–June 12, 1981), and Site Seeing: Travel and Tourism in Contemporary Art (April 3–June 7, 1991).


    The exhibition records are organized chronologically by the opening date of each exhibition.

    Tara Hart, Managing Archivist
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    Repository Details

    Part of the Whitney Museum of American Art Archives, New York, NY Repository

    Whitney Museum of American Art
    99 Gansevoort St.
    New York, NY 10014 United States

    Access to the Archives:

    Researchers may consult archival materials on-site at the Frances Mulhall Achilles Library and Archives in West Chelsea. To request an appointment, please send an email to with the following information:
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