Times Square Time Machine at the Skyscraper Museum

Poster from the Schubert archives of “The City at 42nd Street”, the never-built 1979 mall-superblock plan

Poster from the Schubert archives of “The City at 42nd Street”, the never-built 1979 mall-superblock plan

Two weeks ago, the eyes of the world were on Times Square, but how did it get that way? Take a walk through history at The Skyscraper Museum’s exhibition — Times Square, 1984: The Post Modernist Moment through the end of January.

You’ll find out that the crazy, frenetic, chaotic landscape of this town square and its surrounding theaters was nearly lost when the City Fathers and the real-estate community thought Times Square should be “sanitized”. It took wrecking balls destroying several historic theaters to bring activists, celebrities, actors, historians, and preservationists into the streets and paddy wagons to reverse course.

The skyscrapers that were finally built at Times Square, including the Times Towers of 1997 and 2004

The skyscrapers that were finally built at Times Square, including the Times Towers of 1997 and 2004

The Skyscraper Museum has assembled the architectural models, videos, personal memorabilia collections, and planning sketches to resurrect this nearly forgotten war story. See the installation views on our Flickr site.

The show opens with a 1905 Mutoscope film showing the panorama from the top of the new Times Tower – the first skyscraper in that part of town. See it here on the exhibition web site. The Times started the ball drop in 1907, and it’s continued as one of the City’s most famous traditions.

The “Great White Way” name became popular in the 1920s and 1930s to indicate the glow from theater marquees lining Broadway, Seventh Avenue, and the side streets. The second skyscraper wasn’t built until 1927 (the Paramount Building/ Hard Rock Café), and remarkably, no other skyscrapers popped up until 1972.

Cutaway drawing of the Portman/Marriott Marquis Hotel (1973-1985), which kept focus inward away from tawdry Times Square

Cutaway drawing of the Portman/Marriott Marquis Hotel (1973-1985), which kept focus inward away from tawdry Times Square

The Portman Hotel (now Marriott Marquis) project was sketched out in 1973, but it took until 1985 to open. The fortress-like complex was designed to look inward on purpose – away from the tawdry street life that characterized Times Square in the “bad old” days when drug pushers, crime, pickpockets, loudmouths, and fistfights were the norm. The atrium and rotating rooftop restaurant were marvels to tourists, who were happy to have an inside-escape route.

By 1979, it was so bad outside that the City proposed some drastic plans to make it all better: Why not tear down a few blocks and make an indoor entertainment mall, complete with a 15-story indoor Ferris wheel and the world’s biggest movie screen? Why not make Times Square look more like Sixth Avenue by building monolithic skyscrapers on each corner of Broadway at 42nd?

Real estate deals ruled the city at the time, and the bonanza created by tourism was still decades away.

Save the Theaters study with 1982 photos of Joe Papp and others protesting the destruction of the Helen Hays and Morosco to build the  Portman. Courtesy: Lee Harris Pomeroy

Save the Theaters study and 1982 photos of Joe Papp protesting the destruction of the Helen Hays and Morosco to build the Portman. Courtesy: Lee Harris Pomeroy

The actors, preservationists, and architects were aghast at plans to tear down so many historic theaters for the Portman/Marriott Marquis and began staging street protests and galvanizing public opinion to save Broadway. Through a lot of community organizing, a Save the Theaters study, and a night where all the theaters turned the lights out, the battle was won. Yes, new towers would be built, but the demolition of theaters would stop.

In 1993, Disney pledged to take over and restore the New Amsterdam, the study identified theater features of historic value (including backstage areas), and a 42nd Street redevelopment effort commenced. Julian Eltinge’s theater (now AMC Empire 25) was moved 130 feet down the street, rehearsal studios were built, and the New Victory brought children’s theater to a house that used to be Minsky’s (and the Belasco).

Today, the crossroads is dominated by tall, sparkling skyscrapers and bustling with high-spending visitors. The TKTS island serves as a concrete village green for the entire area.

Looking north today toward Times Square and 42nd Street

Looking north today toward Times Square and 42nd Street

Insiders at the Skyscraper Museum’s winter program at Columbia University let us in on the fact that the there are actually design requirements for flashing signs and billboards in Times Square to be at off-angles and tilts to maintain the slapped-together look of the area – design elements flouted by Vornado’s new block-long HD video billboard.

This short synopsis is only the tip of the iceberg on Times Square. For the full story and history, get to the show and take time to watch Carol Willis’ historic, all-star panel from last November, where you’ll meet the people who saved the Theater District, remade 42nd Street, and created the landscape of Times Square that the world knows today. You’ll never look at it the same way again:

 

For more, click here to read the exhibition story online and see more photos, videos, and artifacts.

Nature Meditations in the Land of Fire and Ice

Katrín Sigurðardóttir, Haul IV (2004) travelling landscape-in-a-box on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

Katrín Sigurðardóttir, Haul IV (2004) travelling landscape-in-a-box on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

When the weather dips below freezing and people think they’re in the Arctic, there’s no better place to get out of the elements and meditate on the landscapes of long, dark winters than the third floor of Scandinavia House on Park Avenue. Until tomorrow, January 10, you’ll join eleven contemporary artists from the sub-arctic on their journeys in a show mounted by the Katonah Museum of Art, Iceland Artists Respond to Place.

Bjork may get all the media attention, but do yourself a favor and walk through this three-gallery show, which beautifully and simply presents the work of Iceland’s other leading visual artists. See the land of fire and ice through their eyes.

Olafur Eliasson, The Aerial River Series, 2000 on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist. Installation photo: Ben Blackwell

Olafur Eliasson, The Aerial River Series, 2000 on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist. Photo: Ben Blackwell

Olafur Eliasson takes you on an aerial journey along a 60-mile meltwater river, from the mouth to the source. Ragna Róbertsdóttir splatters miniscule lava rocks against a wall but it’s not what it sounds like. Far from a violent eruption, it’s an undulating, mesmerizing meditation that you’ll spend time contemplating.

For sheer romantic and modernist punch, enjoy Georg Guðni Hauksson’s two works – a large landscape memory and a solid dark blue canvas evoking the long winter nights (like an emotional Ad Reinhardt).

Lava rocks “talk” in Egill Sæbjörnsson’s Pleasure Stones installation (2008) on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

Lava rocks “talk” in Egill Sæbjörnsson’s Pleasure Stones installation (2008) on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

Egill Saebjornsson takes home the whimsy award with a multimedia installation in which rocks speak (seriously!). Eggert Pétursson zeros in the microscopic natural phenomenon – painting flowers (life sized) in patterns that read like tapestries. You’ll wish you were on some hikes with him. Katrín Sigurðardóttir simply packs up her landscapes into boxes. Tiny, tiny recreations of vast, romantic landscapes.

When we visited the galleries this week, visitors were asking if there was more they could see. Scandinavia House always hosts classy, elegant shows, so although the exhibition space is limited, we have to admit they always leave us wanting to see what’s next from that part of the world.

Seth Myers was recounting his Icelandic adventures this week on Late Night. If you can’t get to the country like Seth or visit the show, at least you can spend chilly days and nights like the natives do, courtesy of this instructional video produced by Scandinavia House:

 

Pterosaurs Leave New York

AMNH illustration of Mary Anning’s Dimorphodon. Courtesy: AMNH.

AMNH illustration of Mary Anning’s Dimorphodon. Courtesy: AMNH.

They came from all over the world to hang out for the ball drop, but will be gone by the time of the Super Bowl. Yes, the crazy cast of characters in the American Museum of Natural History’s show, Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of the Dinosaurs, will decamp for their hometowns tomorrow, January 4 just like everyone else who came to New York and had a blast.

Quetzalcoatlus, Tropeognathus, and “Dark Wing” have been putting on quite a show for AMNH visitors since April, and only time will tell if New Yorkers have learned to stop calling them “dinosaurs.” They are flying reptiles.

AMNH illustration of super-tiny Nemicolopterus from China (10 inches) proves that not all pterosaurs were giants. He lived in the forest.

AMNH illustration of super-tiny Nemicolopterus from China (10 inches) proves that not all pterosaurs were giants. He lived in the forest.

The show features life-sized replicas of these flying machines and the big celebrity “Dark Wing” from Germany – the only pterosaur fossil yet found with impressions of the amazing wing membrane that contains layers and layers of thin muscle, all suspended from a single finger.

Get to know more about these amazing animals in the intro to the show, complete with a peppy soundtrack created by the Museum’s digital divas:

 

When Mary (“She Sells Sea Shells…”) Anning went scouting along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast in 1828, she found little Dimorphodon and sold it to Mr. Buckland, starting a scientific quest to determine the exact nature of these enigmatic creatures.

Happy Ptreranodon in the Vertebrate Origins hall before the crew made him a star of the show inside the Lefrak Gallery.

Happy Ptreranodon in the Vertebrate Origins hall before the crew made him a star of the show inside the Lefrak Gallery.

Most of the press at the time went gaga for the pterodactyl found in Bavaria during the 1830s and 1840s, named Pterodactylus by Mr. Cuvier. Pterosaur fossils have been around so long that it’s hard to believe that this New York show is the first time that these non-dinos have gotten the full star treatment.

Co-curators Mark Norell and Alexander Kellner and the AMNH exhibitions squad took on the jumbo challenge of mounting this first-ever museum show devoted solely to the vertebrates who “invented” flight. Yes, before birds (or bats) took to the skies, fuzzy-bodied pterosaurs were dive-bombing Mesozoic fish, launching from beaches, and leaving their unmistakable footprints on mudflats all over the ancient world.

Click here to see paleontologists searching for pterosaur footprints on an ancient Upper Jurassic beach in central Wyoming.

Pterosaur tracks in the Wyoming sandstone. Crooked forelimb print (L), hindfoot print (R). Taken on a 2006 trackway field trip with the Tate Museum.

Pterosaur tracks in the Wyoming sandstone. Crooked forelimb print (L), hindfoot print (R). Taken on a 2006 trackway field trip with the Tate Museum.

We couldn’t take photos inside the AMNH show of the beautiful pterosaur trackway from the Utah Field House of Natural History in Vernal, Utah, so this Flickr slide show gives you the idea. The shots were taken ten years ago, when paleontologists were still debating whether pterosaurs were bipedal or quadrupedal. As you can see, these Jurassic pterosaurs left quadrupedal tracks.

It’s doubtful that these flying marvels stayed on the beach for long. Watch here to see how gigantic Quetzalcoatlus and friends took off via the animations by the AMNH digital team, based on Michael Habib’s analytics and simulations. You’ll be surprised by what airplanes and pterosaurs have in common:

Philly Hosts Patrick Kelly’s Runway of Love

Mismatched button-inspired looks line the center runway in the show (1986)

Mismatched button-inspired looks line the center runway in the show (1986)

Supermodels having fun, crazy colorful buttons, zingy color, and tongue-in-cheek tributes to fashion’s greats – it’s all on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s tribute to one of our all-time favorite fashion designers in the exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love, on through December 7.

Click here to see our favorite Flickr photos from the exhibition, which has been packed with fashion admirers throughout the show’s run. The gallery is ablaze with life, references to African-American heritage, supermodel sizzle, and the sheer joy that Patrick took in upending fashion’s icons.

The center runway features lots of Patrick’s iconic button dresses, evoking his grandmother’s way of using mismatched buttons to refresh his well-worn clothes as a kid in Mississippi. As a youngster, Patrick consumed acres of fashion magazines – Vogue and Harpers were his favorites – and high-tailed it to Paris as soon as he could.

Always fun to spoof Chanel’s use of pearls (1988) and create a Ricci-inspired flamenco dress once modeled by Iman

Always fun to spoof Chanel’s use of pearls (1988) and create a Ricci-inspired flamenco dress once modeled by Iman

He made and sold voluminous coats (inspired by Issey Miyake and Balenciaga) on the streets of Paris to earn cash. But soon his cut-up jersey tube dresses caught the eye of editors of Elle. Maybe it was because he created them for his model-friends to wear on casting calls. When the “tubes” were published, Bergdorf’s placed an order, put his work in their windows, and his career was off and running.

He appropriated sly references to Black culture in the American South and put his own unique high-fashion spin – flouncy dance dresses made from bandana fabric, denim jumpers inspired by sharecropper wear, runway shows with models sporting Blackamoor turbans, and watermelon accessories. Paris went wild over his exuberant runway shows.

A lot of the excitement was over the models who walked his shows — Pat Cleveland, Iman, L’Wren Scott, and other beauties – who cavorted and flounced all his flirty and fun creations. Watch the trailer and see Patrick and his supermodels in action:

 

Patrick created a bit of fashion history in 1986 when Pat Cleveland interpreted Josephine Baker in Patrick’s famous Banana Dance costume, a collaboration with jeweler David Spada. The photos went viral.

Two looks inspired by Josephine Baker. Left, the “Banana Dance Costume” (1986), a collaboration with jewelry designer David Spada

Two looks inspired by Josephine Baker. Left, the “Banana Dance Costume” (1986), a collaboration with jewelry designer David Spada

The show features videos of Patrick sporting his familiar denim overalls, a joyful designer with a lot of love in his heart for his models, friends, and colleagues. It’s fitting that the museum has posted on its web the things that he loved best. Click here to see Patrick’s Love List and a photo of Bette Davis wearing one of his looks.

If you can’t get to Philly to see the show, click here to see the museum’s site and work your way through each mini-slideshow. The curator’s copy is attached to each look.

Thanks to Bill T. Jones for lending so many of Patrick’s inspired creations and to the museum’s web team that has created such a terrific documentation of this bright light.

And how does a fashion exhibition like Patrick’s all come together? Here’s a backstage look with the exhibitions team:

 

Tiny Show Tells Big Story at NY Historical Society

Tiffany & Co., Sterling silver controller handle used to operate NYC’s first subway train, 1904. Source: NYHS

Tiffany & Co., Sterling silver controller handle used to operate NYC’s first subway train, 1904. Source: NYHS

Has anything changed in New York in the last 400 years?

To celebrate the debut of a history book by Sam Roberts, the New-York Historical Society has filled its tiny second-floor gallery with A Brief History of New York: Selections from A History of New York in 101 Objects. Perhaps it’s always been about infrastructure, finance, and tourism. See for yourself through Sunday, November 30.

Many of the stories intertwine, and it’s fun to get insights from reading the backstories of the items on display, like the 1500s arrowhead and the 1700s oyster. We all know that New York City was the oyster capital of North America until the 1920s, but did you know that they were so abundant that crushed shells were used to line Pearl Street and provide the major component of the foundation mortar for Trinity Church on Wall Street?

Consider that the earliest guidebook to New York City (formerly New Amsterdam) was written in 1670, long before double-decker buses were trolling the mean streets.

New York's first guide book from 1640

New York’s first guide book from 1640

Mass-market media manipulations were born here as long ago as 1809, when young Washington Irving (who first used “Gotham” as a synonym the city in 1807) began posting missing-persons advertisements in a variety of city papers (the New York Evening Post is on display) to drive sales of his satirical political “history” of New York by a fictional Diedrich Knickerbocker. Move over, Buzzfeed.

City infrastructure highlights include Mr. Randal’s field books for laying out the Manhattan street grid in the early 1800s (see the digitized results here) and a snippet from the first transatlantic cable, deployed in 1854-1858. Queen Victoria sent an 88-word telegram to New York, which was officially received in an astounding 17 hours — an innovation at the time but significantly slower than dial-up AOL.

Visitors absolutely love the wooden water pipes on display at NYHS, but the show shares the fact that these were deployed by Aaron Burr, who got the state license to build New York’s first water system as part of his mission with The Manhattan Company. We’re used to hearing about the crumbling infrastructure under the streets today and contractors under-funding city technology projects, but this item underscores that it’s not a new story.

Section of water pipe, 1770-1804. The note says it was put into service in 1804 on Washington Street near Liberty Street and pulled out of the ground around 1911.

Section of water pipe, 1770-1804. The note says it was installed on Washington Street (near Liberty) in 1804 and pulled out of the ground around 1911.

Burr made money but let this innovative delivery system deteriorate. Instead of keeping the infrastructure up-to-date, he use the cash to build The Manhattan Bank (today JPMorgan Chase) to break the monopoly held by Mr. Hamilton’s Bank of New York – a rivalry that later escalated toward an historically tragic outcome. (See their dueling pistols in the lobby.)

On a happier note, one of the brightest objects in the show is the sterling silver Tiffany handle used to operate the first subway train in New York in 1904. Dignitaries used it to make the first run from City Hall up to 103rd Street on a day when 150,000 tickets were sold and New Yorkers took their first ride.

Subway tokens (1995-2003). Source: NYHS

Subway tokens (1995-2003). Source: NYHS

Although they only went extinct in 2003, the subway tokens mounted behind glass seem like ancient history – little round artifacts that look as though they should have been dangling from beaded wampum belts and not carried around as currency in the 20th century.

Thanks to NYHS for providing us with this illuminating capsule collection.

FIT’s Fun, Flirty Historic Lingerie Show

Unusual combination: Sleeves on a silk corset with whalebone stays, circa 1770

Unusual combination: Sleeves on a silk corset with whalebone stays, circa 1770

After sifting through hundreds of corsets, petticoats, slips, nightgowns, knickers, baby dolls, and stockings, the FIT curators have selected 70 key pieces from the archives that lay out trajectory of ladies’ underthings in Exposed: A History of Lingerie, on display through November 15.

The upstairs gallery – usually reserved for gems from FIT’s spectacular collection – takes you on a journey through four centuries of shape-shifting garments that really contributed to the silhouettes of yesteryear. Remarkably, many look totally “today”. The first room pairs underwear and outerwear to make the point.

Hard corsetry items follow next – bustles and corsets from the 17th and 18th centuries, including two that are reckoned to be some of the first examples (at least, in FIT’s collection) of “underwear as outerwear” – a delicate, lavish petticoat and a spectacular 17th century whalebone corset. The telltale signs: If you weren’t showing them off, why would you own a corset with sleeves or a petticoat with such fine hand-embroidered detail?

1969 Pucci Lycra-Spandex body stocking for Formfit Rogers

1969 Lycra-Spandex body stocking by Pucci for Formfit Rogers

Predating flappers by more than a century, you can gaze upon the unstructured “natural corset” that 1815 fashionistas wore under their white Grecian-style muslins. One hundred years later, underwear history repeats itself with the 1920s silk underwear designed to be worn under the “corsetless” styles of the Roaring Twenties.

Then it’s on to many more 1920s intimate-fashion innovations – hostess gowns, boudoir mules, French cami-knickers sold at Saks, and the ultimate in period bohemian luxury, the Fortuny tea gown.

Retail history is noted in the 1930s section. Alongside the languid lounging pajamas, negligees, and lingerie-inspired evening gowns, you’ll learn that in 1935, Bergdorf Goodman became the first Manhattan retailer to open up a specialty store within the store specifically devoted to lingerie.

1949 overwire and a 1951 nylon net and silk taffeta petticoat from Dior.

1949 overwire and a 1951 nylon net and silk taffeta petticoat from Dior.

In the 1940s section of the show, special honor is given to Dior’s structured nylon petticoats that gave the New Look’s iconic silhouette its shape, the role of the overwire bra, and the sensation caused by the 1940 debut of nylon stockings – a fashion must-have that quickly became impossible to acquire during WWII.

Historic intimate gems keep appearing through the exhibition, culminating in more recent innovations, such as the Gaultier’s girdle dress, Rudi Gernriech’s no-bra bra, and the revolutionary Wonderbra, as well as up-to-the-minute styles by La Perla, Agent Provocateur, and Victoria’s Secret.

Want to know more? FIT again gives us a stellar on-line exhibition site organized by decade. On each decade, click on “more images” to see nearly the entire exhibition. FIT’s exhibition blog contains the backstory on a dozen or more pieces from the collection.

Even if you’re able to get to Seventh Avenue this week, why not take a walk-through with Coleen Hill, the curator who created this beautiful, thoughtful, and delight-packed show?

Sinclair Dinosaur Sneaks In and Out of Grand Central

Entrance to the show, featuring the 1964 monorail, transport of the future

Entrance to the show, featuring the 1964 monorail, transport of the future

Although he’s featured at the back, the famous Sinclair dinosaur from the 1964 New York World’s Fair has generated a lot of attention inside the New York Transit Museum’s show Traveling in the World of Tomorrow: The Future of Transportation at New York’s World’s Fairs, closing today.

Drawn in by the spectacular photo of the monorail, commuters and tourists visiting Grand Central have been roaming through the gallery and gift shop, checking out the photos, murals, and Dinoland movie that whisk them back to the transportation pavilions of the history-making 1939 and 1964 New York world’s fairs. What’s a dinosaur doing in the World of Tomorrow? It’s all about the car.

The 1939 World’s Fair was built on top of the Corona garbage dump during the height of the Great Depression, putting visionary architects and day laborers to work.

A 1964 New York Times photo of the Sinclair Dinosaur and Stegosaurus passing by the Empire State Building on their way to the Queens fairgrounds

A 1964 New York Times photo of the Sinclair Dinosaur and Stegosaurus passing by the Empire State Building on their way to the Queens fairgrounds

A futuristic subway station was built to deliver visitors to the fairgrounds from the A Line. You could enter a spaceship-shaped Flash Gordon amusement ride and watch the first 3D Technicolor movie ever produced inside the Chrysler pavilion.

The best was the legendary Futurama, where people could imagine a time where everyone owned their own car. The ride took them to the faraway year of 1960. Superhighways and curly exit ramps bisect acres of tall skyscrapers, with cars traveling on autopilot at the amazing speed of 55 miles per hour. Incredible!

Dinoland brochure from the Queens Historical Society

Dinoland brochure from the Queens Historical Society

Fast forward: The Sinclair dinosaur is part of the 1964 experience. By then, every family owned its own car. Sinclair’s long-necked, supersized Brontosaurus was a familiar icon to any family stopping to gas up along the newly completed interstate highway system, so why not mix a little magic, promotion, and science?

Sinclair built Dinoland and populated it with life-size replicas of nine dinosaurs. The exhibition has plenty of Dinoland souvenirs along with a movie clip of families seeing the Jurassic giant for the first time.

Robert Moses and Walt Disney look at the model of the 1964 World’s Fair. From MTA Bridges & Tunnels archives

Robert Moses and Walt Disney look at the model of the 1964 World’s Fair. From MTA Bridges & Tunnels archives

The show also pays tribute to the man who also brought another group of Mesozoic superstars to life inside the fairgrounds. Walt Disney designed four of the fair’s animatronics displays, including the robot cavemen and dinosaurs glimpsed in the Ford Motor Company’s “Magic Skyway” ride. There’s a terrific photo of New York’s Robert Moses alongside Walt, looking out over the model of the 1964 fairgrounds, and you can see the actual model itself, right inside.

Missed the show? You won’t see all the movies and hear the soundtracks that made the exhibition so exciting, but you can take a look at the galleries on our Flickr feed.

The 1964 car that everyone wanted — the Ford Mustang, which debuted at the fair

The 1964 car that everyone wanted — the Ford Mustang, which debuted at the fair

36 Hours of Jeff Koons at The Whitney

Inflatable Flower and Bunny, a cheeky take on minimalist work NYC galleries showcased in the 1970s

Inflatable Flower and Bunny, a cheeky take on minimalist work NYC galleries showcased in the 1970s

It’s the last 36 hours, and the Whitney is taking it’s Jeff Koons retrospective out with a bang – all day, all night fun-filled wonder on all four floors, letting the crowds take in his irreverent porcelains, 70s inflatables, whimsical fool-the-eye aluminum sculptures, and giant billboards. It’s the first proper retrospective that Koons has had in New York and the last show to be mounted on Madison Avenue before the Whitney moves to the High Line.

Any day of the week, lines of art-seekers have snaked out the door of the Whitney, past the pretzel carts on Madison and around the corner along 75th Street, waiting for admission into this no-holes-barred finale.

The curators and crew have done a spectacular job with the installation – no mean feat, since those big bulbous “inflatables” on the top floor are really highly polished, super-heavy hunks of stainless steel. Oh, and don’t get any fingerprints or scratches on the highly polished surfaces…it will break the illusion that these are just Mylar balloons!

Ten-ton stainless steel Balloon Dog with Moon (Light Pink) (1994-2000)

Ten-ton stainless steel Balloon Dog with Moon (Light Pink) (1994-2000)

The show starts strong on the second floor with a light-filled room of recreated works from the late Seventies – actually inflatable flowers, bunnies, and what-not. Everything uses angled mirrors.

You can’t get the joke unless you trod the floors of those West Broadway galleries in Soho way back then and saw the Minimalists and Earth Works guys in full force.Think Barry Le Va, Heizer, and Smithson who arranged rocks or dirt in a few square feet of gallery space and added a mirror or two to make a statement about nature, art, reflection (i.e. art viewing), and formal criticism inside the art world.

Koons turns all this on its head with silly found inflatables and similarly formalist presentation. It’s kitchen sponges instead of Richard Long’s rocks! Thanks, Whitney and Mr. Koons, for giving us this walk down memory lane.

The main space on Floor 2 is devoted to a spectacular low-light installation of favorite Koons pieces from the early Eighties. Several double-decker and triple-decker vitrines house illuminated and never-used Hoover vacuum cleaners, which Koons assembled to illustrate the feeling of “newness” in American society.

Billboard and illuminated Hoover vacuum cleaners, the essence of “newness” from 1983

Billboard and illuminated Hoover vacuum cleaners, the essence of “newness” from 1983

It’s a beautiful, magical room dominated by a gigantic billboard on The New, all of it from his first window-display installation on 14th Street and Fifth, when Marcia Tucker had her New Museum there back in 1983, just before the move to Soho.

Speaking of moves, it seems fitting to come full circle – spectacular early works by Mr. Koons that debuted on 14th Street as the finale to the Whitney’s long run on Madison Avenue, just prior to its move back to its new 14th Street neighborhood.

Missed the show? Take a look on our Flickr feed.

The Paper Bag Was Her Design

MoMA honors Margaret Knight, 1870s inventor of the flat-bottomed paper bag

MoMA honors Margaret Knight, 1870s inventor of the flat-bottomed paper bag

What will the MoMA curators pull out of the design collection next? Designing Modern Women 1890–1990, running through October 19, puts the spotlight on furniture, textiles, graphics, performance, kitchens, and even inflatables designed by some innovative women over the last century. How can you not love a show that begins with 1890s modern-dance provocateur Loïe Fuller and ends with 1980s pop icon Grace Jones?

The crowd last weekend was loving every bit of it, pausing to watch videos sprinkled throughout the show and marvel at designs – some 80 to 100 years old that are as modern today as they were at their creation.

The next time you carry away your morning muffin from the coffee counter in that little white paper bag, ponder that the flat-bottomed paper bag was invented in the 1870s by Margaret E. Knight and Charles B. Stilwell. Ms. Knight not only invented this classic, but also invented the machine that made it and was one of the first American women ever to receive a patent.

1901 dinner service by Jutta Sika and Koloman Moser

1901 dinner service by Jutta Sika and Koloman Moser

No, the dinner service is not from Pottery Barn. It was created in 1901 by the Austrian design team of Jutta Sika and Koloman Moser. Didn’t I just see a copy of Eileen Gray’s 1927 adjustable table at the D & D Building? Open shelving in your new, modern kitchen? Yes, that was Charlotte Perriand’s idea, and MoMA has (for the first time) installed this full-size, fully efficient, ground-breaking kitchen from her 1952 project with Le Corbusier.

And what about the Slinky? Invented by Betty and Richard James in 1945. You’ll have fun peering into the design cases and learning more about the women behind some remarkable things.

Slinky was designed by Betty and Richard James in 1945

Slinky was designed by Betty and Richard James in 1945

In the 1960s portion of the show, you’ll see those famous Fillmore posters designed by Bonnie Maclean. And there’s an entire wall filled with iconic pop and punk graphics – all created by female designers – that should be familiar to anyone that traversed the downtown CBGBs scene.

There’s no digital media to accompany this fantastic show, so take a walk through our Flickr site. All of the items are from MoMA’s own collection, and we’ve taken slight liberties by arranging the photos in the show album in chronological order of the year that each design debuted.

And to bring it all back to the beginning of this design innovation tribute: Here’s a glimpse of 1897 Art Nouveau performance art by Loïe Fuller, courtesy of the Lumiere Brothers. The color you see here is a result of hand-tinting the film, but her actual perfomances used new theatrical stage lighting for which she held numerous patents. Listen to the MoMA curators explain her influence, but get over to MoMA (or the Flickr site) to take in this super-fun tribute to 100-plus years of smart women who thought differently and made it happen.

Groundbreakers App Ties History and Beauty Together

AppTitle

The New York Botanical Garden carved out an ambitious agenda in its Groundbreakers show – to tie the stories of six women of landscaping history, present a two-gallery recreation of an historic garden, pay tribute to the contributions of several landscapes within NYBG itself, create a poetry walk, and wrap it up with the history of early 20th-century photography and high-gloss publishing. They did it with GPS and an iPhone app, courtesy of Bloomberg.

Closing this weekend, Groundbreakers: Great American Gardens and the Women Who Designed Them is still worth downloading from iTunes, just to get a glimpse into the lives of six landscape-gardening pioneers, see their work, and understand the popularization of American gardening long before the dawn of HGTV or Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Here’s the link.

Photos of Ms. Johnston (left), lantern slides and projector, and Beals (right) on NYC street in 1902. Courtesy: NYBG

Photos of Ms. Johnston (left), lantern slides and projector, and Beals (right) on NYC street in 1902. Courtesy: NYBG

Here’s the story: back in the day (early 1900s), garden design and photography were two of the few career avenues available to women.

Way before Instagram, Photoshop, and two-way phone cameras, documenting the lush gardens involved lugging a gigantic, large-format camera up and down garden paths and around water features, processing black-and-white negatives into prints, turning some into newly-invented lantern slides, and having each slide painstakingly colored by hand. It helped if you had a car and an able-bodied assistant to help navigate the flagstone-lined paths with all the heavy gear.

Six American landscape pioneers who changed the course of American gardening. Courtesy: NYBG

Six American landscape pioneers who changed the course of American gardening. Courtesy: NYBG

Also, after the Industrial Revolution, aesthetically minded women (predating Lady Bird Johnson) felt it was time for American homescapes to get a little more spruced up.

The rich and famous were beginning to hire landscape designers to fix up the areas behind their East Side townhomes and acreages around their country estates. Why not document this and inspire upper middle class homeowners to follow suit?

The exhibition gives us a look at how artist visionaries, authors, and the publishing industry worked in tandem to record how landscape architects were creating romantic backyard landscapes and popularize beautification. Although seeing actual lantern slides, projectors, and gigantic tripods is amazing, one of the highlights is a recreation of the slide show by Frances Benjamin Johnston that basically blazed the trail of a new vision of what was possible – one image after another of gorgeous, visionary landscapes on the grounds of homes on the East Coast, California, England, and France.

NYBG recreated the evocative Moon Gate from the Rockefeller garden, inspired by their experience of the Forbidden City and designed by Beatrix Farrand

NYBG recreated the evocative Moon Gate from the Rockefeller garden, inspired by their experience of the Forbidden City and designed by Beatrix Farrand

In the Conservatory, the team at NYBG recreated Mrs. Rockefeller’s garden, originally designed by Beatrix Farrand, to highlight how the garden was conceived, used, and enhanced by the Asian art Mr. and Mrs. John D. collected. Since Farrand took on this project in 1926, NYBG has the sounds of America’s Jazz Age wafting through the galleries. Take a look on our Flickr page.

Another great feature of this show and the app – NYBG’s GPS feature shows you where you are in the expansive garden and encourages you to visit features where these groundbreakers had a hand – such as Marian Coffin’s ornamental conifer collection and Ferrand’s Rose Garden.

Get a closer view of the spectacular Groundbreakers in NYBG’s news-style video:

If you have a bit more time, listen to this curator lecture on the Beautiful Garden movement in America in 1900 and see the photos used by Johnston home to show suburbanites exactly how it should be done. You’ll witness garden images that hadn’t been seen since 1930. Take a look and get inspired:

Click here for other videos: a lecture about Beatrix Farrand created Mrs. Rockefeller’s garden and how the NYBG team recreated it in the stunning Victorian conservatory.