To reinvent oneself. To continually renew the message. This is the goal of every artist and every museum. A case in point is the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, founded in 1930 by the sculptor and art patron Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. A museum that emerged in 2015 as one of the cultural epicenters of downtown New York when it moved into the futuristic Renzo Piano designed building that faces the High Line at 99 Gansevoort Street and is now celebrating its 5th anniversary.

It just happens to be the anniversary shared by another notable icon, the Whitney Bag, created by Max Mara in collaboration with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop to celebrate the opening of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Crafted in soft, quality leather, the hallmark of the “Whitney Bag” – as indeed the architectural structure of the building – is its elegant surface, featuring distinctive ribbing that gradually becomes fine lines, directly recalling the steel tie- beamed exterior of the new Whitney Museum. These graphic lines are created using traditional leather craft with innovative industrial techniques. Brass plates are used to mold the strips of leather that are then topstitched together to construct the pattern on the bag. In describing the Whitney Bag, all metal detailing is based on the observation of the structural metal components of the architectural project by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The façade of the building is used as inspiration for the buckles, while the inside pocket and the unmistakable snap hook act as a signature feature of the bag.

“The Whitney bag has been designed to be timeless, and after five years it still represents a modern, elegant and simple way to design, where details and craftsmanship really matter.” Elisabetta Trezzani, partner RPBW.

To celebrate its 5th anniversary, the cult bag has been revived in a special edition version dedicated to the American painter Florine Stettheimer who boasts an important presence at the Whitney. A feminist and activist ante-litteram (1871-1944), Stettheimer’s work “Sun”, created in 1931, inspired the bag’s five new color variants and the design of the floral printed lining. Indeed an anniversary issue, or better yet five, to collect like works of art.

Florine Stettheimer (1871 – 1944) was a pioneer of modern art. A native New Yorker, Stettheimer embraced New York City’s emergent modern art community where she established herself as a painter, poet and theatrical designer. An early feminist, Stettheimer is credited with painting the first female nude self-portrait. She received widespread acclaim for her costume and set designs, notably for Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson’s opera, “Four Saints in Three Acts”. Stettheimer’s avant-garde painting style often focused on societal quirks with her family and friends as the subjects. Her work has been showcased in more than 40 international exhibitions.

The Whitney Museum of American Art, founded in 1930 by the artist and philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875– 1942), houses the foremost collection of American art from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Mrs. Whitney, an early and ardent supporter of modern American art, nurtured groundbreaking artists at a time when audiences were still largely preoccupied with the Old Masters. From her vision arose the Whitney Museum of American Art, which has been championing the most innovative art of the United States for more than eighty years. The core of the Whitney’s mission is to collect, preserve, interpret, and exhibit American art of our time and serve a wide variety of audiences in celebration of the complexity and diversity of art and culture in the United States. Through this mission and a steadfast commitment to artists themselves, the Whitney has long been a powerful force in support of modern and contemporary art and continues to help define what is innovative and influential in American art today.