Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Lost Generation Occupies Some City Green

This post also appears on the Bryant Park blog.

At this time of year, the life-sized bronze Gertrude Stein statue is somewhat buried behind the holiday shops in Bryant Park. She is one of ten made from a cast by friend and sculptor Jo Davidson in Paris, in 1922, and possibly the only one displayed outdoors year-round. Davidson had a long list of commissioned busts, including Charlie Chaplin, Hellen Keller, and Frank Sinatra. Many of them can be seen here. The photo below, taken by friend and surrealist photographer Man Ray, shows Davidson working in his Paris studio, with his subject Gertrude Stein looking on.

Photo: Man Ray, 1922, Getty Museum

Stein was connected to the ex-pat art and literary scene of the times, coining the term "lost generation," later used by Hemingway to refer to that generation of authors: "You are all a lost generation," epigraph, The Sun Also Rises. Though most well-known for her writing and personal relationships, Stein, along with several members of her family, amassed an impressive art  collection, on display at the Grand Palais now until mid-January.Time to use up those miles!

The Bryant Park statue was donated by Dr. Maury Leibovitz, psychologist and art dealer, and unveiled in a small ceremony on November 5, 1992. In addition to the sculpture, Mr. Leibovitz owned an estate formerly belonging to Jo Davidson. Davidson has another Bryant Park connection -- for a time, he worked out of a studio at the Bryant Park Studios, on the corner of 40th Street and Sixth Avenue. So it's fitting that she found a home in the park.

Photo: BPC, Marco Castro

As for the other nine statues, I tracked down a few of them: one at The Met (they also have a beautiful Picasso portrait of her), supposedly one each at The Whitney and The Carnegie Museum of Art, and possibly one at The Smithsonian (it was on view last Spring, but could have been on loan).
Other Sources:
**The Parks Department has a monuments catalog available online. You can read about most every statue you've ever seen in the park system until your eyes bleed.
**Now you can settle all of those arguments about when the Post Modern ends and Contemporary begins with this handy chart.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cornices to Curtain Walls on 32nd Street

When I first started working for the 34th Street Partnership, I was going though photos and found this one showing the corner of West 32nd Street and Sixth Avenue, or, 885 Sixth Ave., taken in March 1992.

Photo: 34SP Archive, March 1992, Norman Mintz

I recognized it as being an early 1900s building, but with a TON of signage hanging off of it and something weird happening with the cornice along the top, almost as if it had been removed? Yep, 'cause here's what it looked like shortly after being built in 1910 -- less signage and intact cornice.

Photo: MCNY
Fast forward to the 1990s. The ground floor was occupied by Leo's Famous, a hot dog emporium and coffee shop that was at this location since 1941, and closed in 1997.

Photo: 34SP Archive, March 1992, Norman Mintz

After finding these photos, I thought I'd walk down to look at the building in person. Too late. I started working for the BID in 2008, found the photo in 2009, and by then, the building was torn down to make room for The Continental, a large residential complex, with coincidentally, the same name as a Christopher Walken SNL character. He's done so many good ones.

Curbed documented the construction of  The Continental (also known as Tower 111) quite thoroughly, including a sneak peak at its insides last January. It's central location to transportation hubs, restaurants, and shopping, put residents in the . . . Thick. Of. It. with almost everything the City has to offer in a short walk or subway ride away.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Finding a Bargain under a Bridge

This post also appears on Fashion Herald.

I LOVE dollar stores, especially Jack's. It's chaotic for sure (I have to be in the mood for an adventure), but there are great deals on a huge variety of merchandise. The first Jack's was opened at 16 East 40th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. In 1994 Jack opened a second store on the first floor of 110 West 32nd Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, and three years later, a closeout retail store called Jack's World, on the 2nd and 3rd floors in the same building. Here is 110 West 32nd Street in 1912 -- it's the middle building with the sexy cornice and Penn Station in the background to the west.

Photo: MCNY
The photo above was taken just after the completion of its neighbor to the west, known then as the Cuyler Building, and later as the Gimbels Administration Building, and even later, as one host to the Gimbels Traverse, or skybridge (more on that later). As for the "Jack's" building -- visible below to the left of the skybridge -- it was probably built in the early 1900s.

Manhattan, West 32nd Street, b/t Sixth Avenue & Seventh

According to  Walter Grutchfield's extremely informative website on New York City wall signs, 14 to 42, the building was occupied by a company called Alliance Press from about 1907 to 1938, and Protective Ventilator Co. from 1910-1916.  In 1916, Willoughby's Camera Stores purchased the building, setting up a much-loved shop on the ground floor. The camera and photography store (one of NYC's oldest) was there until 1994, bringing us full circle to Jack's. Again, 14 to 42 gives a concise history of Willoughby's, so I'm not sure I need to.  I can, via the MCNY photo collection, contribute a Willoughby's window from 1945:

Photo: MCNY