Article, History

David Whitney

David Grainger Whitney
March 28, 1939 – June 12, 2005

David Whitney met Philip Johnson in 1960 when Whitney, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, attended a lecture Johnson gave at Brown University. Whitney’s visit to the Glass House a few weeks later marked the beginning of a 45-year relationship that ended with Johnson’s death in 2005. More than domestic, their relationship was a creative partnership in which Johnson focused on architecture and Whitney was the deciding influence on the art the two men acquired.

A curator, collector and passionate advocate of contemporary art, Whitney organized major exhibitions of Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Franz Kline, and Willem de Kooning. In 1979, he organized Andy Warhol: Portraits of the 70s, the controversial installation which featured deep red walls and a tower containing Mao portraits. In the 1980s, Whitney’s attention turned to younger artists including Michael Heizer, Julian Schnabel, and David Salle. A compulsive collector, Whitney’s wide-ranging taste included George Ohr pottery, Tiffany glass, and furniture by Elisabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti.

Whitney was a protector of artists and a man of fierce loyalties. He formed close friendships with Andy Warhol (to whom he spoke daily), Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Andrew Lord, Steve Wolfe and Brice Marden. An avid gardener, his influence is evident throughout the Glass House landscape from the subtly sculpted meadows, to the peony garden at Grainger, and the succulent garden with its Kasimir Malevich inspired plan at Calluna Farms, Whitney’s private residence.

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