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Gracie Mansion Conservancy Announces the Opening of New York 1942, A New Exhibit to Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the "People's House"

March 1, 2017

New installation features 59 works of art and objects from cultural institutions across all 5 boroughs

New Yorkers can visit installation at open house on Sunday, March 5 or sign-up for free tours at nyc.gov/gracietours 

NEW YORK—Today, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Gracie Mansion serving as New York City’s Mayoral residence, the Gracie Mansion Conservancy announces a new exhibit, New York 1942. This is the second in a series of installations and includes artwork, documents and objects focused on 1942, the year Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia moved to Gracie Mansion.

“When we moved to Gracie, we were committed to making sure Gracie Mansion ‎would truly be the People’s House. With the inclusion of important works of art and vibrant multimedia pieces, our new exhibit – New York 1942 – provides a new perspective on our city from the time when the first First Family took residence at Gracie. In the midst of war and upheaval, we find the beginnings of major social and cultural shifts that would shape the future of our city and the world. This exhibit tells a story of struggle, and ultimately triumph, and provides an opportunity for us to celebrate and learn from a generation of New Yorkers whose stories are too rarely told,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray.

New York 1942 and accompanying public tours shine a light on the struggles and triumphs of the many diverse communities in the years before, during and after World War II. The year 1942 was a time of transformation for New York City itself. As a group, the objects in the exhibit depict the evolving landscape of New York City and the profound cultural and economic forces that were transforming the five boroughs into a crossroads of progressive change – from abstraction in art and the burgeoning jazz scene to women entering the workforce and the acceleration of mass production. 

During this time neighborhoods across the city were being remade and revitalized, including the development of large-scale public housing such as Parkchester in the Bronx. Newcomers arrived daily while 85 percent of the men, women and material deployed in the European theater passed through New York harbor. The population of the city was altered by the influx of both European refugees fleeing tyranny and African-American and Puerto Rican migrants seeking greater opportunity. All of this created seismic social and cultural shifts that would shape the future of our rich and diverse city long after the war was won. In exploring the artwork and objects of New York 1942 we are exploring the origins of the modern metropolis we live in today.  

“We are proud to honor Gracie Mansion and its 75th year serving as home to the Mayors of New York City. With this newly installed exhibit, we are capturing the diversity of La Guardia’s New York, a place on the front lines of both the New Deal and World War II,” said Gabrielle Fialkoff, Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships, which oversees the Conservancy. “In exploring the artwork and objects of New York 1942 we are exploring the origins of the modern city we live in today.”

Made possible by a grant from the Elizabeth A. Sackler Museum Educational Trust, the new exhibit will be available to the public with an open house on Sunday, March 5th from 10 AM – 2 PM. New York 1942 involves the display of 59 new items, including three videos and ten historic artifacts, as well as paintings, prints, photographs and sculpture. Highlights include photographs from Gordon Parks, Helen Levitt and John Albok; World War II artifacts and historical documents; wartime radio recordings of Mayor La Guardia from WNYC; and an original performance of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia.”

This second installation follows the success of Windows on the City: New York in 1799, which drew more than 25,000 visitors. Just as Windows on the City looked at the New York of the Federal Period, when Gracie Mansion was built, this new installation continues the examination of the deeds and voices of New Yorkers from all walks of life, offering a more complete record of our shared past.

The Gracie Mansion Conservancy is a not-for-profit organization established to preserve, maintain, enhance and enliven Gracie Mansion – one of the oldest surviving wood structures in Manhattan and home to the sitting mayors of New York City and their families since 1942, when the LaGuardia’s arrived as the first official residents. The Conservancy also provides public access via tours, programs and diverse media platforms with a goal of illustrating the rich history of New York.

For New York 1942 guest curator Kalia M. Brooks selected works from lenders and cultural institutions in all five boroughs to give visitors a glimpse into the changing culture and dynamic factors impacting New York City in 1942. An accompanying guide is available, designed to provide a richer, more educational experience for visitors.

The installation will be open to the public during an open house on Sunday, March 5. Interested New Yorkers must register for a time slot between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm for the Open House at www.nyc.gov/GMCOpenHouseNY1942. Space is limited and registration closes on Friday, March 3rd, 6:00 pm. Public tours will begin Tuesday, March 7.

The artwork and objects featured in the New York 1942 installation will be integrated into Gracie Mansion’s existing artwork to reflect the diverse experiences of New York City’s inhabitants.

“In many ways, Mayor La Guardia laid the foundation for New York’s progressive, inclusive values,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner and Chair of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy Tom Finkelpearl. “This fascinating exhibition brings artwork and objects from collections across the city together in the place he transformed into ‘The People’s House’ and gives us the opportunity to reflect on our shared history as New Yorkers.”

"New York 1942 reveals the rich tapestry of life in New York City as it is imaged in art, artifacts and documentation. It tells a story of the people in the city, and what the city looked like at a pivotal time in world history – all while commemorating Mayor LaGuardia's contribution to the City through public service," said Kalia Brooks, Curator of New York 1942.

“It is a pleasure to support New York 1942 at Gracie Mansion to celebrate its 75th anniversary,” said Elizabeth Sackler, President of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation and Member of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy Board of Advisors. “Gracie Mansion is the ideal prism of multicultural inspiration at a time when we need to remember New York’s history/herstory to create a fully equitable and just future. Please join me!”

“Gracie Mansion played a central role in my family’s life, as I am sure it will for the de Blasio’s. While my grandmother would have been happy to stay in their apartment in East Harlem, she made Gracie a home and opened it frequently to entertain. Regular guests included Newbold Morris, Robert Moses and Judge Samuel Seabury, all of whom lived in the neighborhood. My father was 12 years old when he moved to Gracie Mansion. He met his best friend right across the street on East End Avenue. This sense of community embrace amidst the global turmoil of the era transformed Gracie Mansion into a warm and welcoming home for the entire family. The La Guardia family is honored to join the de Blasio family for this 75th year tribute,” said Kate La Guardia.

“Adding new works from the time of Mayor La Guardia’s ‘little White House’ provides a measure of New York’s progressive advance as forceful today as it was 75 years ago,” said Paul Gunther, Executive Director of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy.

Highlights of New York 1942 include:

“A Night in Tunisia” – composed in 1942, this is Dizzy Gillespie’s signature masterpiece. For New York 1942, Grammy-winning composer, conductor, and pianist Arturo O’Farrill was commissioned to record this new version, with his trumpeter son Adam O’Farrill and the Brooklyn College Jazz Ensemble.

Harlem Resident with Dog – One of several featured photographs by pioneering photographer and filmmaker Gordon Parks (1912-2006), who documented the everyday lives of African Americans living in New York through a Federal Security Administration commission. 

Production of Victory – A print by painter, satirist, and illustrator William Gropper (1897-1977). When America joined the war in 1941, Gropper depicted New York as FDR’s “arsenal of democracy.”

Letter to the World—an iconic Modernist photograph by New Yorker, Barbara Morgan, (1900-1992) that depicts the great modern dance pioneer Martha Graham performing in a wartime work inspired by the letters of Emily Dickenson.

Contoured Playground- - A cast bronze maquette by the renowned Japanese- American artist , Isamu Noguchi, designed for a proposed playground to be located in Arizona’s notorious Poston War Relocation Center.  While as a New Yorker Noguchi was exempt from the such forced internment, he volunteered to go as both protest and well-meaning designer of facility improvement such as this model playground.

A full list of pieces is available upon request.

Institutions loaning to this exhibit include the Museum of Modern Art, Noguchi Museum, Whitney Museum of Art, the Municipal Archives, the La Guardia archive at La Guardia Community College, Queens Museum, and Bronx Historical Society, among others. 

A series of celebrations for “Gracie75” include:

  • An invite-only opening reception on Thursday, March 2.
  • A public open house on Sunday, March 5. New York City residents will be able to register for tickets beginning today.
  • Public tours resume Tuesday, March 7 and every Tuesday thereafter.
  • School tours resume Wednesday, March 8 and every Wednesday thereafter.

To learn more about the Conservancy or to reserve an individual or school group tour of Gracie Mansion, please visit the website at nyc.gov/gracietours or call 212-676-3060.

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