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'Whitney's Collection' to reimagine iconic artwork from early 20th century

More than 70 artists will be represented in the exhibition, opening June 28, including Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol and Georgia O'Keeffe.

"Whitney's Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965" will

"Whitney's Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965" will reintroduce the museum's iconic masterpieces and shed light on lesser-known artists across 120 works, including "Calder's Circus," pictured. Photo Credit: Alexander Calder (1898-1976), Calder's Circus, 1926-31.

The Whitney Museum of American Art is reaching deep into its collection for a new showcase that will "reimagine" American art history.

Opening June 28, "Whitney’s Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965" will re-install 120 works by more than 70 artists, including Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Norman Lewis and Archibald Motley.

By showing off both well-known and underrated artists' work, the museum hopes to both pay homage and offer new visibility at the same time.

"We are a few years into our new building, and we still have so many first-time visitors to the Whitney... for those who are regulars, we always want to imagine that each experience is new," said David Breslin, the museum's DeMartini Family curator and director of the Collection. "We feel it is important to resynch and refresh our look."

An Archibald Motley painting, for instance, is not known generally seen as a "surrealist" work, but the new exhibit installs it in a gallery that highlights ideas of fantasy and the surreal because it has an "otherworldly" aspect to it, Breslin said.

Fourteen pieces from Jacob Lawrence's "War Series" will actually take up a whole room, "like a secular chapel" where people can reflect on it, Breslin added.

Alexander Calder's "Circus," dozens of tiny figures of animals, clowns and acrobats and about 100 accessories, will be set up in a panoramic installation.

And Jay DeFeo's "The Rose" is returning to gallery walls for the first time since the new building opened to the public.

"There's nothing like 'The Rose,'" Breslin said. "We know people come here to see Edward Hopper, but it's about how we can create new icons for the collection and new settings for the works to look differently."

Expanding how these different works can be interpreted falls into place with founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney's open idea of what art should be and offers another chance for the museum to show off its most iconic works, Breslin added.

"We really feel like it's a story that The Whitney can distinctly tell because it comes through so much of what the founder was collecting at that time, as a snapshot of what the U.S. was like at that moment," he said. "If you make the people who work here excited, it's exciting to think about what the audiences will think of it."

If you go: The museum is located at 99 Gansevoort St. and is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week and until 10 p.m. on weekends. It's closed on Tuesdays. Tickets are $25, $18 for seniors and students, and free for those 18 and under. For more information, visit whitney.org.

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