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The Art Neighborhood: Celebrating Ten Years of Action 2009-2019

The City Reliquary is proud to present The Art Neighborhood’s 10th Anniversary installation! Throughout June and July, the Neighborhood will grow in our gallery space and be populated with action figures made by our visitors. Come watch the installation take shape during our open hours, and join us for action figure making workshops on Saturday, June 15 and Saturday, July 13!

The Art Neighborhood is an interactive and collaborative art installation created by Brooklyn artist Lisa Ludwig. It depicts an alternate universe shantytown populated by superhero action figures built by community participants over the past 10 years.

Built from found materials, the world of the Art Neighborhood reflects the themes of struggle, beauty, hope, and transformation. It embodies the call to action necessary to address problems of poverty and conflict. Visitors participate by creating action figures – of themselves or alter egos – to add to the Art Neighborhood community installation with the understanding that artistic expression is one of many ways to answer a call to action.

Lisa will begin building this incarnation of the Art Neighborhood at the Reliquary on Thursday, May 30. Everyone is invited to come watch its progress and to create their own action figure to populate the town! Action figure workshops will take place on June 15 and July 13. The complete set of action figures, built by artists, children, musicians, activists, and museum-goers over the past decade, will be on rotating view in the front gallery space.

If you are a past participant in the Art Neighborhood, we especially hope to see you over the course of the exhibition, and hope you’ll add to your character’s story.

Patrick O’Hare: New York Landscapes Film Screening Friday, May 17

Shadowed skyline of buildings and trees against a darkening sky at dusk. Two vapor trails cross each other overhead.
Still from Chimera, New York City Landscapes

The City Reliquary Proudly Presents:

Patrick O’Hare: New York Landscapes

Film Screening & Reception: Friday, May 17th, 7 PM

Patrick O’Hare is a photographer and filmmaker who explores the architecture and landscape of the modern world. His films evoke that strange language of merging and omission that allows reality to slip and hints at the invisible. Through the cracks, something startles and vanishes – the shape-shifting riddle of inside and outside.

On May 17, the City Reliquary will screen three of O’Hare’s recent films: Chimera, New York City Landscapes; The Highlands; and The Ecstasy of Ruins. Shot in 2018 in New York City, the Hudson River Valley, and upstate New York respectively, these works explore the natural and manufactured elements of our landscape, blurring the line between permanence and the evanescent to form a more elusive state of being. A discussion with the artist and reception will follow the screening. Chimera, New York City Landscapes will be on continuous view in the City Reliquary’s gallery in the following weeks.

The May 17 screening is free with late night admission to the City Reliquary Museum, a suggested donation of $7.

Patrick O’Hare’s photographs have been exhibited at MoMA PS1, Parsons School of Design, and Rhode Island School of Design. He has screened his films at UnionDocs in Brooklyn, New York and the Unseen Film Festival in Denver, Colorado.


Synopsis:

Chimera, New York Landscapes (2018). HD, Silent, 18:00

A city as hybrid of public and private, modern efficiency and timeless elements, projected through light and weather, refracted and collaged.

The Highlands (2018). HD, Silent, 18:41

A series of Hudson Valley landscapes, the film asks what a river and its environs evoke as an ancient conduit to a present state of mind.

The Ecstasy of Ruins (2018). HD, Silent, 19:27

The quiet geography of upstate New York reveals an architecture of melancholy and a twilight civilization writ large.

Psychic City: The Medium of Mediums

Exhibit logo for Psychic City: The Medium of Mediums with crystal ball

Solve all your problems! Guaranteed results! Explore the history of New York City psychics, mediums, and fortune tellers with this vast archive of handbills and flyers collected by Harley J. Spiller. This exhibition — curated and designed by Parsons students — is a multi-sensory experience that allows visitors to ponder the past and seek their future. One visit will show you the way!

Exhibition on view April 4, 2019 – May 26, 2019

Hand-drawn flyers advertising psychic advice by phone, created by the exhibit designers.
The interactive exhibit invites you to get a reading of your own by phone.

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? Walk/Dont Walk Pedestrian Signal

The humble pedestrian signal: a street design standard of such obvious utility (albeit habitually ignored by New Yorkers) that it seems to have existed forever. But our streets have not always been ruled by incandescent dictates. In the early 20th century, pedestrians freely used street space to cross and walk in. As automobile usage became more common, so did pedestrian deaths. In an effort to improve safety and reduce gridlock, the first permanent traffic lights in New York, on 5th Avenue between 14th and 57th Streets, were installed in 1920. Separate pedestrian signals were first introduced at a few intersections in the late 1930s.

The yellow box “walk/dont walk” signal we have on view was installed throughout the city in the 1950s. Note the lack of an apostrophe in “dont”: possibly because the first such signs were neon, with “dont” made out of a single glass tube that made it difficult to include. The idiosyncratic punctuation helped to make the signal a beloved part of NYC’s visual fabric. “The apostrophe missing from DONT WALK” was one of the 101 reasons to love New York City cited by the Times in 1976 (please read the entire incredible list), and a Times writer later effused “[i]t is to Martin Scorsese’s midcentury Manhattan what the gas lamp is to Edith Wharton’s gilded age.” The sign was the titular component of Pratt alum George Segal’s sculpture revealing “passionate honesty and existential weight.” And the sign’s instructions were sometimes the first words young New Yorkers learned to read.

Following federal specifications, walk/dont walk signals were exchanged for pictograms, commonly referred to as the man and the hand, beginning in 1999 (though some escaped replacement until 2006!). Initially derided as another way New York was coming to look more like every other U.S. city, our ever inventive citizenry have made the man and hand our own. Unlike other cities worldwide, our alterations have so far been unofficial – another example of New Yorkers always going their own way.

Many thanks to Reliquary friend Steven Gerraro, who donated a pedestrian signal to the Museum in 2017!

What’s New in Our Making A Museum Exhibit? From the Archives: A Lost Ticket From Katz’s Deli

The Lower East Side landmark and makers of famously large and delicious sandwiches, Katz’s Deli, is undoubtedly well known to readers of this blog. Founded in 1888, family owned and operated, When Harry Met Sally, “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army,” etc. All old hat to you experienced New Yorkers, who would never order mayonnaise on your pastrami and always tip your cutter.

And veteran Katz’s patrons are naturally familiar with the ticket system used to ensure everyone pays their check: every adult receives a ticket, printed with a grid of numbers, upon entry; each adult must return that ticket when exiting, even if unused. Lose the ticket, and it’s a $50 fee. It’s an archaic system that has induced curiosity, rage, and panic in customers, and has become as integral to the Katz’s experience as pickles, shared tables, and fading celebrity photos on the walls.

While you can display your Katz’s ticket knowledge with a t-shirt or socks, the high price for a lost ticket makes the ticket itself a highly unusual item to find outside the confines of Katz’s. Truly lost tickets are a rare occurrence, according to Jake Dell, Katz’s current owner, and indeed the historical timeline posted in the deli’s window states that the first lost ticket didn’t happen until 1962. We don’t know the story of how this ticket, found on the street, escaped – did it cost the erstwhile owner $50 or an hour or two of dishwashing work, or did the staff take pity and let them go? – but it represents a slice of New York life that can only be found one other place in the city.

The Fantasy Coffin Experience (and other funerary traditions)

Friday, March 22, 2019 – Talk at 7:00 p.m. – Museum open until 9:00 p.m.

RSVP for this event on Facebook

Alert readers of the City Reliquary’s blog and recent Reliquary visitors are no doubt familiar with author Sarah Murray’s Ghanaian fantasy coffin in the shape of the Empire State Building, now on view in our Making A Museum exhibit. If you’d like to learn more about how that coffin came to be – and about more fascinating funerary traditions from around the world – be sure to attend her talk at the Reliquary on Friday, March 22 at 7:00 p.m.!

Ms. Murray will share stories and photos from her book Making An Exit, an exploration of the extraordinary creativity unleashed when we seek to dignify the dead. Her research took her around the world and brought her to create a unique plan for her own eventual send-off.

The event will be free with admission to the City Reliquary Museum! We’ll be open special late-night hours from 6-9 p.m. so there will be plenty of time to check out all our exhibits and new additions before and after Ms. Murray’s talk at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be available by donation.

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? From the Archives: Helen Hayes Theater Brick

The original Helen Hayes Theater once stood on 46th Street near Broadway. Built in 1911 – one of nearly 80 theaters to be built in the Broadway district between the IRT’s opening in 1904 and the stock market crash of 1929 – it was originally envisioned as an NYC version of the risqué Parisian venue Follies Bergère, with dancers roving among the audience seated at supper tables, but soon switched to a standard seating configuration and changed its name to the Fulton. In 1955, the theater was renamed the Helen Hayes to honor the EGOT winner and “First Lady of the American Theater.”

While in operation, the Helen Hayes/Fulton Theater hosted the initial run of many classic Broadway plays and musicals: The Jazz Singer in 1925, Dracula (starring Bela Lugosi) in 1928, Arsenic and Old Lace in 1941, Gigi (starring Audrey Hepburn) in 1952, Long Day’s Journey Into Night in 1956, and Equus in 1976, among many others. But by the 1970s, Times Square and the theater business had both changed substantially. Many live theaters had long since been converted to movie houses or turned to seedier entertainment. Theatergoers were increasingly uncomfortable attending shows in a notorious part of town.

In 1973, developer John Portman proposed a massive new hotel development on Broadway between 45th and 46th, on property where the Helen Hayes and four other classic-era theaters stood. Mayor Ed Koch strongly supported new development to revitalize the area, and under political pressure the Landmarks and Preservation Commission voted against designating the theaters. Actors, producers, and preservationists rallied with the goal of saving Broadway, staging numerous public protests and temporarily enjoining construction. But these efforts ultimately failed, and on March 22, 1982, destruction of the theaters commenced.

In April of that year, Scott Edelman, friend of the Reliquary and theater fan, reached through the construction fence surrounding the site of the future Marriott Marquis and retrieved a brick from the pile of rubble on the site of the Helen Hayes Theater. In 2015, he generously donated that brick to the Reliquary, and his accompanying letter to us shows his authentic love for this forgotten palace of the stage. You can see both in our exhibit.

Some have persuasively argued that the Broadway Massacre of 1982 was ultimately crucial in saving live theater in New York. The protest organizers redoubled their calls for protection of classic Broadway theaters and succeeded in landmarking 46 theaters and passing zoning to protect the historic Theater District while still allowing new mixed-use development. Continuing new investment, following Portman, and vastly reduced crime rates in Times Square have made it a top tourist attraction that draws significant revenue for the city and hundreds of thousands of visitors each year (sometimes, it seems, all on the same day!), attracting new demand for live theatrical productions.

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? W.F. Mangels Speed Boat Ride

This tropical-themed boat was part of a children’s ride named Speed Boat constructed by the W.F. Mangels Company of Coney Island in the 1950s. Speed Boat consisted of eight boats that followed a circular undulating track around a central lighthouse pillar. The boat’s rear seat has a ship’s wheel with bells attached, and the front seat has a cast aluminum mock gun.

William F. Mangels emigrated from Germany as a teen, and started his eponymous amusement ride company by the time he was twenty, in 1886. With his mechanic’s training, ingenuity, and complete devotion to figuring out what would be the most fun, Mangels quickly became prominent in his chosen field. His most famous ride, The Whip, was first installed at Luna Park, Coney Island, in 1914 and spread rapidly from there, with more than 500 Whips in amusement parks around the world. Mangels held more than fifty patents for amusements he designed, including wave pools, shooting galleries, carousels, and coasters.

Mangels’ love for the world of amusements led, in 1929, to his directorship of the American Museum of Public Recreation, located on Coney Island close to his own factory on West 8th Street. The Museum, dedicated to play facilities of all kinds, included in its collection carousel animals, patent documents, drawings of jousting matches and ancient festivals, bicycles, sleighs, marionettes, and an extensive library. Sadly, the Museum was not a financially successful venture; however, many of its paper holdings as well as Mangels’ own company papers, blueprints, and drawings are held by Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

William F. Mangels died in 1958 and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. His creations live on – you can still ride one of his carousels on Coney Island today!

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? St. Denis Building Directory

The St. Denis Building, at 80 East 11th Street at Broadway in Manhattan, is a case study of the changing city. Built in 1853 by renowned architect James Renwick Jr., it was the first building in New York to feature terracotta sculpted exterior decoration. At that time, the neighborhood was a fashionable shopping district, and the St. Denis was a grand hotel which drew many notable guests: Abraham Lincoln, P.T. Barnum, Mark Twain, and Sarah Bernhardt among them. The gentleman’s parlor on the second floor saw Alexander Graham Bell’s first public demonstration of the telephone in New York.

By 1917, the neighborhood had fallen out of fashion. The building was sold and converted to office space with ground floor retail. The renovations removed Renwick’s terracotta detailing, rendering it ineligible for historic preservation a century later.

St. Denis’ office tenants were just as notable as its hotel guests. From the 1920s to the 1950s, many of its tenants were leftist newspapers and workers’ organizations: The Workers Party of America, the American Negro Labor Congress, and the W.E.B. Du Bois-chaired Peace Information Center were among the many groups headquartered there. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, the last holdout of this generation of tenants, appears on our Directory board (Room 341). Marcel Duchamp kept a secret, unlisted studio in Room 403, and his deliberately posthumous final work, Étant Donnés, was installed there.

In 2016, the St. Denis was sold to developers with plans to demolish the building. The last tenants left in 2018, but remain listed on the historic Directory on view at the Reliquary. The variety and number of businesses listed are a prime example of Jane Jacobs’ maxim that new ideas need old buildings. The comparatively cheap rents, older fixtures, and smaller office spaces in the St. Denis allowed many solo therapeutic practitioners to see low-income patients and small businesses to get an affordable start.

The current plans for the St. Denis space are for a 12-story glass wall office building with a stacked box design. It is one of a cluster of new commercial developments in the neighborhood seeking to expand Flatiron’s “Silicon Alley” further down Broadway.

The St. Denis directory came to the City Reliquary as the generous donation of Richard Signorelli, a 15-year tenant of the building and one of the last to depart.

We highly recommend this excellent article about the history and vibrant life of the St. Denis by Jeremiah Moss in the New York Review of Books.

What’s New in our Making A Museum Exhibit? The 1939 World’s Fair Collection of Virginia McClellan Moskowitz

A major part of the City Reliquary’s mission is to elevate everyday objects and the stories of everyday New Yorkers. We love and celebrate the passion and curatorial skill of amateur collectors. With this collection of 1939 World’s Fair memorabilia, we showcase the work of an amateur collector who became a professional: Virginia McClellan Moskowitz.

In 1939, Virginia, a nurse from Mount Vernon, NY, attended the World’s Fair in New York City. The experiences and sights she witnessed stayed with her her entire life, and inspired her to collect many different types of souvenirs reflecting her fond memories.

After retiring from the nursing profession, Virginia’s love of collections led her to become Mount Vernon’s town historian. Her enthusiasm, and the local history she passed on, is fondly remembered by those she met, and her legacy is inspiring a new generation of local historians today.