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Empire State Building to light up for the Whitney on 1 May

— April 2015

Associated media

The Empire State Building and the new Whitney (white building in foreground to the right of the ESB). Photograph by Tim Schenck

A celebration of the opening of the Whitney’s New Downtown Home and the 84th anniversary of the Empire State Building

The Whitney Museum of American Art will join with Empire State Realty Trust on a one-of-a-kind, one-night-only Empire State Building lightshow on Friday, 1 May 2015, marking two historic occasions: the opening day of the Whitney’s new Renzo Piano-designed building in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and the 84th anniversary of the Empire State Building.

Focusing on 12 important works from the Whitney’s collection, lighting designer Marc Brickman will interpret pieces by artists Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Peter Halley, and Barbara Kruger, among others, using the Empire State Building’s LED tower lights to create a dynamic show. Beginning at 8p.m. on Friday, 1 May, each of the 12 artworks will be showcased for 30 minutes, with the light show ending at 2a.m. on Saturday, 2 May.

Most of the works that inspired the light show will be on view at the Whitney as part of the new building’s inaugural exhibition, ‘America Is Hard to See’ (1 May–27 September 2015).

We’re thrilled to see these incredible works from the Whitney’s collection interpreted on one of the most iconic buildings in the world – one that has been the subject of many an artist’s work, said Donna De Salvo, the Whitney’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs.
We can’t imagine a more spectacular way in which to signal the opening of our new building and celebrate the art and artists of the United States.

Anthony E. Malkin, Chairman and CEO of ESRT, commented:

The Empire State Building has brought music, sports, and elections to life with our state-of-the-art lighting system, and now we’re delighted to showcase the impressive artwork of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Our partnership with the Whitney will give the people of New York a celebration of two of the city’s iconic institutions.

To kick off the celebration, a lighting ceremony will take place at the Empire State Building for invited media and guests on 1 May. John B. Kessler, President and Chief Operating Officer of Empire State Realty Trust; Adam D. Weinberg, the Whitney’s Alice Pratt Brown Director; Donna De Salvo, the Whitney’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs; and some of the artists whose work will be interpreted in the light show will jointly flip the ‘switch’ and light the building in celebratory colours.

A special viewing for Museum visitors will be held on Friday, 1 May, from 8p.m. until 10p.m. at the Whitney’s new building at 99 Gansevoort Street, which has stunning views of the Empire State Building from its four, east-facing terraces.

The artworks can be viewed online at, and on 1 May  an online slideshow will be synchronized to the lightshow, so that viewers throughout the city can look at the Empire State Building and the art works in real time.

Featured artworks

Georgia O’Keeffe, Music Pink and Blue No. 2, 1918
Edward Hopper, Railroad Sunset, 1929
Chiura Obata, Evening Glow of Yosemite Fall, 1930
Mary Ellen Bute, Synchromy No. 4: Escape, 1937–1938
William H. Johnson, Blind Singer, c.1942
Mark Rothko, Untitled (Blue, Yellow, Green on Red), 1954
Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958
Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1970
Elizabeth Murray, Children Meeting, 1978
Peter Halley, Blue Cell with Triple Conduit, 1986
Barbara Kruger, We Don’t Need Another Hero, 1987
Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002

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