Home Arts Rashid Johnson and Dyani White Hawk make new works for Whitney Museum restaurants

Rashid Johnson and Dyani White Hawk make new works for Whitney Museum restaurants

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The Whitney Museum of American Art has cast a curatorial eye on its food and beverage offerings and commissioned artworks by Rashid Johnson and Dyani White Hawk to help revamp its culinary amenities.

Frenchette Bakery, which opened in TriBeca in 2020, will launch its first-ever café in the museum’s redesigned ground-floor restaurant space later this month. The bakery outpost, from the minds behind high-end restaurants Frenchette and Le Rock, will initially feature take-away options, followed by sit-down fare later in its tenure.

Johnson’s installation, New Poetry (2023), a 15ft-tall structure of black steel shelves holding an array of plants, monitors, vessels and books, straddles the Whitney’s glass façade, stretching between the new café’s interior and the outdoor pedestrian plaza beyond. White Hawk’s work, Nourish (2023), will be installed in December in the museum’s new eighth-floor café space, set to open in 2024.

“We didn’t design these spaces and then ask artists to fill a spot,” Scott Rothkopf, the new director of the Whitney, told The New York Times. “We asked the artists first, and found out what they wanted to do. It’s a very Whitney way of doing it.”

Johnson’s sculpture, described by Rothkop as a “literal and imaginative portal to the restaurant”, doubles as a new addition to the museum’s permanent collection, creating an immediate, tangible connection with visitors. “The steel grid works are multifaceted,” Johnson said in a statement. “They work as a brain, delivering disparate materials and information into one location where conceptual connections and new ways of thinking come from their physical proximity.”

Dyani White Hawk working on her mosaic for the Whitney Museum café Courtesy the Whitney Museum of American Art

White Hawk’s installation will honour legacies of Indigenous art through alternative traditions of abstraction in ceramic tile, a simultaneous nod to Lakota symbolism and the New York subway system. “When cared for intentionally, the spaces in which we share meals together, and/or find respite, can be the most sacred of spaces—where we take part in nourishing mind, body and spirit, gathered together, or individually among the company of others,” White Hawk—one of the stars of the 2022 Whitney Biennial—said in a statement.

Modellus Novus, the architecture firm behind Lincoln Center’s restaurant Tatiana, worked closely with the artists to ensure that the Whitney’s dining spaces remained open, friendly and accommodating to the connective goals of their works.

“For both the museum’s ground-floor and eighth-floor dining spaces, our aim is to create holistic, unified environments that centre the artists and their work while offering guests serene spaces to enjoy the museum’s enriched culinary offerings,” Jonathan Garnett, partner and creative director of Modellus Novus, said in a statement.

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