945 Madison Avenue
July 5, 2023 - August 26, 2023
In the midst of the Whitney Museum’s 2014/2015 departure from 945 Madison Avenue—the iconic building designed by Marcel Breuer—Bill Jacobson was given permission to photograph the building’s interior over the course of two weeks. The majority of its contents had been removed, and renovations by the museum’s next tenant had not yet begun. Working in this interim period allowed Jacobson to make the building itself his subject, which he hoped “to depict as it might’ve looked to Breuer upon its completion in 1965.”
The resulting portfolio of thirty photographs is an intimate portrait of a well-known structure that captures its iconic features (ceiling, lights, windows, walls, elevators, and stairs), as well as the remarkable details of Breuer’s choice of building materials. Within the images are a variety of patinas generated by millions of bodies perambulating throughout the building over five decades.
Over the past eight years, this storied location has been temporarily inhabited by two notable museums: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met Breuer), and The Frick Collection (Frick Madison). The evolution of the building’s occupants, and the spectra of art shown in its galleries, have provided transformative contexts for looking at art. More recently, it was announced that 945 Madison Avenue has been purchased by Sotheby’s. In light of this, Jacobson’s images allow us to see and understand the building in a pure state—not untouched, but fully lived through the first of its many lives.
Bill Jacobson has been making photographs for over forty years. Though his methods have varied considerably, the work is joined by underlying concerns with memory, visual perception, and the subtle dialogue between absence and presence.
Prior to moving to New York in 1982, he received a BA from Brown University (1977) and an MFA from San Francisco Art Institute (1981). He has exhibited widely in the US and Europe, and is in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum; Whitney Museum; John Paul Getty Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Victoria and Albert Museum; and many others.