The Empire State Building is going to look a lot different when nighttime arrives on Friday, May 1. The Whitney Museum of American Art is partnering with Empire State Realty Trust to stage a one-of-a-kind and one-night-only Empire State Building light show to mark 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 iconic 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, and utilizing the Empire State Building’s LED tower lights to create a dynamic show.

Starting at 8 p.m. on Friday, May 1, each interpretion of the 12 artworks will be projected for 30 minutes until the light show wraps up at 2 a.m. on Saturday, May 2. Most of the works inspiring the light show will be on view at the Whitney as part of the new building’s inaugural exhibition, "America Is Hard to See". The show opens on May 1 and continues through September 27, 2015.


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

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


“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.”

“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,” said Anthony E. Malkin, Chairman and CEO of ESRT. “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 May 1, 2015. 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 colors.

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

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


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


BASIC FACTS: The Empire State Building is a 102-story skyscraper located in Midtown at 350 5th Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets. A tower lighting schedule and information on visiting the iconic building can be found by visiting

The Whitney opens in its new downtown location on May 1. The new Whitney is located at 99 Gansevoort Street (at Washington Street), New York, NY 10014.

"America is Hard to See" opens on May 1 and remains on view through September 27, 2015.


Copyright 2015 Hamptons Art Hub LLC. All rights reserved.

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