The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld examines his influences, his iconography, and his techniques, from his earliest works to his last drawings. Visitors will have the opportunity to trace this unique artist's evolution by viewing his own body of work, including drawings, paintings, selections from sketchbooks, ephemera, and video. The exhibition is being organized in partnership with the Al Hirschfeld Foundation and is guest-curated by David Leopold, the Foundation's Archivist.
The Art of Al Hirschfeld was organized by Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, President of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, and the New-York Historical Society, and was curated by David Leopold, Archivist of the Al Hirschfeld Foundation.
Leadership support for The Art of Al Hirschfeld has been provided by the The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, Lewis B. Cullman and Louise Kerz Hirschfeld, Edwin Schloss, and Janine Luke, in memory of Melvin Seidin.
Major support provided by Patty & Jay Baker Foundation, The Leo Kerz Family/Jonathan, Antony, Leslie & Grandchildren, Bernard & Irene Schwartz, Sue Ann Weinberg; Lawrence B. Benenson, A G Foundation/Agnes Gund, The Robert and Joyce Menschel Family Foundation, Martin A. Packouz, and Jujamcyn Theaters/Jordan Roth & Paul Libin.
Additional support from Donal A. Pels Charitable Trust, The Jerome Robbins Foundation, Kathy Hayes, Alan & Betsy Cohn, Jamie DeRoy, The Ronald & Jo Carole Lauder Foundation, Cameron MacIntosh Foundation, The Dorothy Strelsin Foundation/Enid Nemy, Bruce E. Surry and Lynn Surry, Anita & Byron Wien, Larry Condon, Harry P. Kamen Family Foundation, and The Mortimer Levitt Foundation.
Visitors to the New-York Historical Society may be familiar with many of the institution’s more important holdings which will be on view, and without which no exhibition about the history of the city would be complete. Among them are the water keg with which Governor DeWitt Clinton marked the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825; the draft wheel used during the 1863 draft riots, the largest civil uprising in American history; the sterling silver throttle that powered the inaugural trip of the New York City subway in 1904; and a jar of dust collected by N-YHS curators at Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks. Less well-known selections include a seventeenth-century English–Low Dutch dictionary revealing linguistic traditions that persist to the present; a section of the transatlantic cable that first facilitated the intercontinental exchange of telegraphs in 1858; or a pair of shoes belonging to a young victim of the 1904 General Slocum steamboat tragedy, which until 9/11 was the city’s worst disaster.
Yet the city also can be described by far more ubiquitous objects that are no less unique to its DNA. The bubblegum pink Spaldeen ball, a staple of urban street games. The bagel, an unquestionably New York City food. Graffiti. The (now-extinct) subway token. The black-and-white cookie, which Roberts believes “democratically says New York,” because of its popularity at subway bakeries and elite establishments alike. Indeed, the selections themselves constitute a democracy of objects that taken together capture the monumental drama as well as the everyday spirit of an extraordinary city.
When war broke out in 1939, New York was a cosmopolitan, heavily immigrant city, whose people had real stakes in the global conflict and strongly held opinions about whether or not to intervene. The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought the U.S. into the war, and New York became the principal port of embarkation for the warfront. The presence of troops, the inflow of refugees, the wartime industries, the dispatch of fleets, and the dissemination of news and propaganda from media outlets, changed New York, giving its customary commercial and creative bustle a military flavor. Likewise, the landscape of the city acquired a martial air, as defenses in the harbor were bolstered, old forts were updated, and the docks became high security zones.
The latest of these displays to be installed, on view from September 18, 2012 through January 13, 2013, reflects on Keith Haring’s contributions to education, in particular his work in encouraging young people to read. On view will be posters, drawings and T-shirt designs by Haring, photographs by Adam Scull and Tseng Kwong Chi documenting the official launch of a Haring-designed campaign of public service advertisements, newspaper articles, a television interview with Haring, and one of the artist’s journals.
In 1986, with the encouragement of his friend and mentor Andy Warhol (1928–1987), internationally known New York artist Keith Haring (1958–1990) caused controversy by opening the Pop Shop in downtown Manhattan. Among Haring’s, and the Pop Shop’s, biggest fans were children: “There is nothing that makes me happier than making a child smile,” noted Haring in a 1988 journal entry. “The reason the “baby” has become my logo or signature is that it is the purest and most positive experience of human existence.” Throughout the 1980s Haring offered his services for education projects. In 1985 he created the poster for New York is Book Country, the famous annual book fair held on Fifth Avenue in support of the Children’s Services Division of the New York Public Library. Many of the best-known children’s authors including Charles Schulz, Maurice Sendak, and William Steig also donated their artwork for fair posters over the years—even as a fine artist, Haring’s work naturally paralleled theirs.