Known for his chalk drawings on subway station walls and public murals, Keith Haring left his mark on nearly anything he could find—even the bodies of other artists—all painted with detail and finesse. Highlights of the installation include photos and videos of Haring’s collaborations with Bill T. Jones, Grace Jones, and Madonna that feature painted clothing or backdrops, including a jacket worn by Madonna when she performed at Haring’s first “Party of Life” birthday celebration in 1984.
All objects on view in the rotating display are on loan from the Keith Haring Foundation Archive. The Keith Haring Foundation donated the ceiling of the original Pop Shop to the New-York Historical Society, where the work, with its bold and lively design, now hovers above the admissions area.
In 1986, internationally famed artist Keith Haring (1958-1990) opened the Pop Shop at 292 Lafayette Street. The following year, Haring collaborated with Japanese film producer Kaz Kuzui, and his American wife, film director Fran Rubel Kuzui on a Tokyo venue, in the Aoyama neighborhood.
The shop was made out of two shipping containers welded together to form one large room. While the shop was conceived very much in the image of its New York counterpart, many of the products were created by Haring to mirror Japan’s cultural traditions. Haring did extensive design work in Tokyo; fans and kimonos were manufactured in Kyoto, and rice bowl templates were painted and then produced in Nagoya. With speed and virtuosity, Haring began painting the interior of the shop on Wednesday, January 27, 1988 and finished the next day. The paint was still tacky on Friday, January 29 when he oversaw the installation of the displays in time for a press preview that evening. On Saturday, January 30, Pop Shop Tokyo opened to the public. However, sales were disappointing, and Haring noted “there are just too many Haring fakes available all over Tokyo and, this time, they’re really well done.” The shop closed in the summer of 1988.
Distance was overcome by speed. "City Hall to Harlem in fifteen minutes" the slogan promised. Reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour on its express lines, the new electric subway was three times as fast as the steam-powered elevated trains and six times as fast as electric street cars. A second line, the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Corporation (BRT), which later changed its name to the Brooklyn Manhattan Transit (BMT), was created in 1913. Both the IRT and BMT were publicly owned but privately operated. The municipal government owned and operated the IND line, which opened between 1932 and 1940. The city acquired the IRT and BMT lines at this time as well and unified all into a common network. This was the culminating phase of subway construction.
The urban metamorphosis taking place over the first half of the twentieth century provided visual artists with dramatic subject matter. City scenes began to outpace portraiture and landscapes as topics of choice. Printmaking was undergoing a renaissance at this time as well. While nineteenth-century printmakers were primarily focused on documentation, 20th-century printmakers felt freer to work in more stylized, expressionist and purely aesthetic modes. They experimented with new media and rediscovered methods such as lithography, screen printing, and woodcuts, primarily used for commercial purposes in the past. The New York City Graphics Division of the Works Progress Administration (1935–1943) facilitated the advancement of printing technology employing hundreds of artists during the depression. Most of the prints in this exhibition date from the 1920s to the 1950s.
The New-York Historical Society's exhibit Tunnel Vision: New York Subway Construction Photographs, 1900–1908, explores the logistical challenges and remarkable effort that went into what at the time, was the largest construction project in the city's history. The exhibition showcases 80 photographs, culled from more than 5,000 from 1900–1908 in the Historical Society's Subway Construction Photograph Collection, all of which were a gift from the New York City Board of Transportation in 1950. Made primarily for insurance purposes, the overall collection contains nearly 60,000 photos showcasing buildings and streetscapes before, during and after construction of the of the entire subway system from 1900 until the last line was finished in 1947.
"These photographs capture the incredible human spirit behind this massive project and reveal the pride and willpower that laborers used in lieu of modern technology to make the subway a reality. This was truly a feat in modern engineering for the city to accomplish this task and Tunnel Vision will provide visitors with a snapshot into this extraordinary period of growth for New York," said New York Historical Society President & CEO Dr. Louise Mirrer.
The photographs and text panels document in vivid detail the "cut-and-cover" technique that the project's chief engineer, William Barclay Parsons developed. The process, in which crews dug a shallow excavation below the street surface and built a concrete and steel subsurface for trains to run through. The method was a painstaking process that required the relocation of thousands of sewer, gas and water mains and reinforcing buildings along the route. However, some of the exhibit photos clearly show how that many of the buildings did not survive and had to be demolished. While the IRT construction was marred by significant property damage, business disruptions and fatal accidents, it did succeed in addressing the city's basic objective: a cheap, reliable urban transit system. The five cent fare that remained in place until 1947 allowed an explosive growth of home construction throughout Upper Manhattan and the Bronx.
Most of the photographs from the early construction (1900–1908) are printed on platinum paper, which has proven to hold the images intact over the last century. The 65 prints in this exhibit are grouped geographically to show the transformation of key sites in New York City that were dramatically altered during the construction phase and then re-assembled afterward. Unfortunately, many historic structures did not survive the construction phase, or were re-rebuilt in a poor fashion to prevent them from living on today. "Tunnel Vision teaches a valuable lesson about the delicate nature of New York City's infrastructure and the challenges that lie ahead for any further expansion of the subway system," said Dr. Mirrer.