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Sotheby's Acquires Iconic Breuer Building: A New Chapter in Art and Auction History

By J. Forth

March 14 2023

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The Whitney Museum has recently sold its renowned Breuer Building, located on Madison Avenue in New York's Upper East Side, to Sotheby's. The auction house, currently based on York Avenue, plans to relocate to the Breuer Building in 2025, after taking possession of the space in September 2024.

Designed by celebrated Brutalist architect Marcel Breuer and completed in 1966, the Breuer Building was initially intended as the third home for the Whitney Museum. However, the museum eventually outgrew the space and moved to a new location in the Meatpacking District designed by Renzo Piano in 2015.

Sotheby's has expressed its commitment to preserving the architectural integrity of the Breuer Building while enhancing it for its new purpose. The company plans to update the galleries, exhibition spaces, and the auction room while maintaining key features like the striking lobby. The galleries will be accessible to the public free of charge.

While acquiring the Breuer Building, Sotheby's will retain ownership of its current headquarters in New York's Lenox Hill neighborhood, where it has been situated since 1980.

Sotheby's CEO, Charles Stewart, expressed his excitement about the acquisition, emphasizing the historical significance of the Breuer Building and its connection to esteemed institutions such as the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Frick Collection. Stewart sees this acquisition as an opportunity for Sotheby's to further distinguish itself and continue innovating for its clients.

Adam Weinberg, the outgoing director of the Whitney Museum, expressed satisfaction that the Breuer Building will continue to play a vital role in the art and cultural scene. He highlighted the building's architectural significance and its preservation due to its landmark district status.

This acquisition is part of Sotheby's ongoing expansion plans on a global scale. The auction house is scheduled to open flagship salesrooms in Hong Kong and Paris in 2024. Additionally, Sotheby's will launch Gantry Point, a state-of-the-art facility spanning 240,000 square feet in Long Island City this year.

Prior to Sotheby's ownership, the Breuer Building had a brief stint as the Met Breuer when it was occupied by the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 2015 to 2020. Subsequently, the Frick Collection made use of the space in 2021 while its iconic mansion underwent renovations. The Frick Collection currently holds a lease on the building until August 2024, allowing visitors to enjoy its remarkable collection during this period.

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