Sothebys to move in and “review” brutalist Breuer Building in New York

Exterior of Breuer Building

International auction house Sotheby’s has announced its acquisition of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s   Marcel Breuer-designed building on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

Sotheby’s has announced its acquire the building and turn it into a flagship gallery for the brand in order to display collections of art and luxury goods to the public.

The company said that it would employ an architect to “review and maintain” the structure after it takes possession in September 2024.

Breuer Building exterior
Sotheby’s has purchased the Breuer Building on Madison Avenue

Widely jnown as the Breuer Building, 945 Madison Avenue was completed in 1966 as an additional location for New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. Currently, it is being used as a temporary home for art gallery The Frick Collection

“This is a truly unique opportunity to reimagine an iconic and globally renown architectural landmark in the ideal location, which will further distinguish us as we continue to transform and innovate for our clients,” said Sotheby’s CEO Charles F Stewart.

Breuer Building exterior
The brutalist structure has a stepped form with a concrete-panel facade

The brutalist building features a facade of concrete panels facade that steps back from the street creating a series of cantilevers. Only a few windows dot the side, extruding at angles from the concrete.

At one end, a large vertical wall shields the building from the adjacent structures.

In its plans for maintaining the structure, Sotheby’s mentioned the “striking lobby”, a space with stone flooring and ceiling completely covered with an array of gridded light fixtures.

Sotheby’s said that after it completes its move, the structure will remain open to the public, who can view the auction house’s collections before items are sold to private owners.

Interior of Breuer building
Sotheby’s will maintain a collection there that it says will be open to the public

Some have lamented the change from museum to auction house. Writing in Curbed, art critic Jerry Saltz said that “auction houses are where art loses its identity and its dignity”.

Saltz noted that the building itself with its limited windows and austere interior felt like a “temple” where art is meant to be viewed.

Marcel Breuer was born in Hungary in 1902 and moved to the United States in 1937. He constructed a number of buildings in his adopted country, some of which have seen changes in purpose over the years, including a brutalist office building in Connecticut that recently reopened as a hotel.

The photography is by Max Touhey

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