This fall, the New York Historical Society presents New York Scenes: The Elie and Sarah Hirschfeld Collection, an exhibition of 130 paintings, works on paper in various media and sculptures from an extraordinary gift promised by philanthropists and art collectors Elie and Sarah Hirschfeld. From October 22, 2021 through February 27, 2022, the exhibition features many artists new to the New-York Historical collection, including Marc Chagall, David Hockney, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Louise Nevelson, George O’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol.
“Our gratitude to Elie and Sarah Hirschfeld for the generous gift of their collection runs deep,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of New-York Historical. “With artwork depicting the city’s bustling harbour, local restaurants, tranquil parks and sleek skyscrapers, our visitors will have the opportunity to see New York with new eyes and, we hope, a new appreciation. .”
“Seeing the collection on display like this is a unique thrill, and one that I am thrilled to share with my fellow New Yorkers,” said Elie Hirschfeld. “Sarah and I are so happy that New-York Historical is now the repository of New York Scenes and that future generations will be able to better understand their city through these works.
Curated by Wendy NE Ikemoto, Curator of American Art, with research contributions from Roberta JM Olson, Curator Emeritus of Drawings, the exhibition celebrates New York: its buildings, bridges, parks, landmarks and people. Many exhibits feature New York City icons. For example, Georgia O’Keeffe Study for “Brooklyn Bridge”, 1949, immerses the viewer in the midst of the suspension cables and Gothic arches of the famous bridge. Created around the time the artist left New York to live in New Mexico, the drawing can serve as an ode to the city. Likewise, Arman Statue of Liberty, California. 1986, and Peter Max Freedom and justice for all2001, reinvent the famous landmark of New York Harbor.
Additional highlights include depictions of city life. In S. Klein’s lunch counter in Union Square in the 1930s, California. 1930-1939, Polish-born artist Theresa Bernstein depicts the racially integrated lunch counter of a popular department store. Her work often explored major issues of her time, from racial discrimination to unemployment and suffrage, often through the lens of women’s everyday lives. by Jacob Lawrence Harlem dinner, 1938, images struggling during the Great Depression and foreshadows a composition from the artist’s Watershed Migration series. One of Mark Rothko’s first paintings, Untitled (The Metro), 1937, uses the New York City subway as a pictorial experimentation ground, presaging the abstract color fields of the artist’s mature career.
New York’s landscapes offer another perspective on the city. 1930 by Ben Shahn Picnic, Prospect Park applies a modernist style inspired by Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse to the green spaces of Brooklyn. by Francoise Gilot Gingko trees in Central Park2002-04, is a vision of autumnal yellows, while Marc Chagall View of Central Park from the window, 1958 opens from the Stanhope Hotel on Fifth Avenue to a summertime scene of the famous urban grounds and skyline of Central Park West.
Also included are works from movements specifically associated with New York, such as the Ashcan School, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art. In central park1902, Robert Henri, founder of the Ashcan School, rejects the park’s famous landmarks to instead depict an indescribable slope, rendered in brushstroke and urban realist style. In Untitled (New York Times), California. 1976, Abstract Expressionist William de Kooning breaks the strict format of the iconic diary with exuberant gestural strokes. And in Radiant baby with AIDS alligator, California. 1984, pop artist Keith Haring offers a primal chase between life and death. His graffiti, applied to a Bowery subway sign, illustrates how he used his publicly accessible art to advance awareness of the AIDS epidemic.
Many of the works on display are accompanied by commentary from various New Yorkers sharing their memories and impressions of the places depicted. Local residents, writers, artists, hotel staff, baseball fans, teachers, and tree enthusiasts all ponder the ever-changing nature of the city and its landmarks. A Stuyvesant High School student describes the view of the city skyline from her school, for example, while a New York Public Library librarian recounts being greeted at work each day by the building’s sculpted lions, Patience and Fortitude.
An exhibition catalog, featuring 200 color illustrations, will be available for purchase from the NYHistory store beginning in December 2021. On Monday, November 1, exhibition curator Wendy Ikemoto will lead a special tour of New York Scenes, highlighting new artists joining the New-York Historical collection.