December 6, 2006CIT to Serve as Lead Sponsor of Most Aggressive Fundraising Campaign Ever Undertaken to Conserve City Hall Portraits; Collection Considered to be One of Country's Most Important Group of Portraits by American Artists
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and CIT Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey M. Peek today announced the creation of a unique public-private partnership initiated by the Art Commission in collaboration with the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City to conserve the City's historically significant portrait collection on display at City Hall. The project aims to conserve nearly 50 high-priority paintings, and will also establish an endowment for the collection's long-term care. The program was officially launched by a major gift from lead corporate sponsor the CIT Group Inc. (NYSE: CIT), a leading provider of commercial and consumer finance solutions, and the Peek Family Foundation. Mayor Bloomberg was joined by Mayor's Fund Chairman Rob Speyer, Art Commission Executive Director Jackie Snyder and students from the Brooklyn High School of the Arts, who are studying preservation arts.
"New York City has the oldest functioning City Hall in the United States, and having a portrait collection that is as rich as this one is truly exceptional," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Through this innovative public-private partnership, we are reversing decades of deterioration and preserving these historic portraits for generations of New Yorkers to come. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I want to thank CIT, the Peek Family Foundation, and other donors for their generosity."
"CIT has a history of supporting the arts and the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City," said CIT Chairman and CEO Peek. "We're excited about this opportunity to conserve these portraits for future generations. We take our corporate responsibilities seriously and aim to support the cultural and civic organizations in the communities in which we live and work. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg for this opportunity and encourage other corporations to consider supporting the Mayor's Fund to make our City an even better place to live, work and play."
The City's collection, curated by the Art Commission, consists of 108 portraits of prominent political, military and social figures, including former American Presidents, New York City Mayors, New York State Governors, foreign dignitaries, war heroes and others who had a significant impact on the City or visited City Hall. Some of the leading American artists of the late 18th and 19th centuries were responsible for the oil-on-canvas portraits, which were commissioned by the City as commemorative gestures to mark the visits and contributions made to the City by certain figures.
The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, the City's non-profit charitable organization, is spearheading the effort to raise other private funds for this initiative as well as for the endowment. CIT has pledged $190,000 to the project, while the Peek Family Foundation has pledged an additional $50,000. In addition to the generous donation from CIT and the Peek Family Foundation, the program received an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and a generous contribution from the Associates of the Art Commission. The History Channel provides support for free tours of City Hall, through which the public can view the restored portraits.
"This initiative is another example of the generous private support that exists for New York City's cultural treasures," said Chairman Speyer. "The Mayor's Fund is proud to be a part of this collaboration and grateful for the commitment of CIT and Jeff Peek, which we hope will inspire others."
"Every person depicted in these portraits has a concrete connection to the City in some way, and some of them have silently watched our political and civic history unfold for almost 200 years," said Executive Director Snyder. "Through the generosity of our partners, we are able to bring these portraits back to life."
Located throughout City Hall - with many prominently displayed in the recently restored Governor's Room - the majority of portraits have remained in their original frames, some of which are more than 200 years old. Portraits that have already been conserved include Jacob Brown (1815) and Oliver Hazard Perry (1816) by John Wesley Jarvis, and DeWitt Clinton (1827) by George Catlin. Others that are in the process of being conserved include Alexander Hamilton (1805) and John Jay (1805) by John Trumbull, and Zachary Taylor (1850) by John Vanderlyn. In addition, two other portraits in the Governor's Room - one of former U.S. President Andrew Jackson and the other of former New York State Supreme Court Chief Justice James Kent - are part of an exhibition on the conservation project.
A comprehensive condition assessment of the collection begun early in the Bloomberg administration resulted in the selection of almost 50 conservation priorities, based on both the portraits' conservation needs and the historical significance of the artist and the subject. Each portrait can require as many as 80 days to be conserved, at a cost of up to $60,000. Treatment can entail an initial cleaning of the top layer of dirt, removal of resin films and paint layers that were added during previous treatments, repainting areas where the original paint is missing and applying protective varnish. Kenneth S. Moser, Chief Conservator at the Brooklyn Museum, is the project's conservator. Mary Beth Betts, Director of Research at the Landmarks Preservation Commission, is serving as the project's historian.
New Yorkers and visitors interested in viewing the portraits can call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov to make a reservation for a free tour. A free tour also departs every Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. from The History Channel kiosk located at City Hall Park.
The Art Commission is New York City's design review agency. Established in 1898, the Commission reviews permanent works of art, architecture and landscape architecture proposed for City-owned property. The Commission also acts as caretaker and curator of the City's public art collection and maintains an extensive archive documenting the history of New York City's public works.
CIT Group Inc. provides clients with financing and leasing products and advisory services. Founded in 1908, CIT has more than $70 billion in managed assets and possesses the financial resources, industry expertise and product knowledge to serve the needs of clients across approximately 30 industries worldwide. With its global headquarters in New York City, CIT has more than 7,200 employees in locations throughout North America, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific.