I must admit that had it not been for Bill Cunningham’s ”Facades” we would most probably have skipped the New-York Historical Society. Sitting modestly next to the illustrious Natural History Museum, it’s easy to pass it by. Even the ticket desk staff seemed somewhat surprised at the extra visitors and promptly asked us which Museum we wanted tickets for: the Natural History or the Historical Society?… Just making sure we’d got our history right, I guess.
But I’m glad we made the right choice, or else we would have missed this: The Dr. Egon Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass.
Tiffany glass lamps were produced until the late 1930s by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s company, best known as Tiffany Studios. L.C. was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany & Co., the very same jewelry and luxury items NYC company with its very own trademark colour – the ”Tiffany Blue”.
Dr Egon Neustadt, an Austrian immigrant who had collected Tiffany lamps since 1935, gifted his entire collection of 132 original designs to the museum.
The note reads: The Wisteria was one of the most popular lamp designs produced by Tiffany Studios. Although the lamp was long attributed to Mrs. Curtis Freshel of Boston, recently discovered correspondence written by Clara Driscoll, head of Tiffany Studios’ women’s glass cutting department, reveals that it was in fact her design. The shade is composed of nearly two thousand small pieces of glass. This model cost four hundred dollars in 1906.
But the sparkling Art Nouveau garden of Tiffany is only part of the riches; the museum boasts a magnificent collection of paintings, astonishingly hanging in storage-like metal panels in a wrongly-lit room, as if actually hiding from view. The collection includes Thomas Cole’s iconic five-painting series The Course of Empire (click here for full series).
There is also a large collection of furniture, including George Washington’s inaugural armchair and Valley Forge camp bed, jewelry, ceramics, glass, accessories and weaponry, an all-round trip through American History.
In 1970, artist Jack Stewart began to photograph graffiti on subway station walls and inside cars. His interest grew through the 1970s, along with the rise of the phenomenon. Steward interviewed dozens of young graffitists in his studio, most of them under the age of sixteen. His wife Regina recalled:
”The graffitists were as intense at these meetings as they were when they were tagging. They just couldn’t sit still and could tag as fast as they could talk. Soon the started to hit everything in the studio. Eventually, we reached an agreement: if they would refrain from tagging Jack’s paintings, and everything else in the studio, we would donate the inside of the studio’s bathroom door”
There are more than 190 tags on this door from some of the most respected graffiti writers of the period.
Graffiti as a museum item? Who would have thought?
On the ground floor, a remarkable exhibition of Quilts is presented, marking the 150th anniversary of the darkness of Civil War (1861-1865). ”Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War” is running until 24 August 2014.
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
Photographs by Konstantinos Implikian.
New York, 11 June 2014