-- Queens College’s Godwin-Ternbach Museum Teams Up with the Queens Memory Project to Record Fairgoers’ Memories --
Photo exhibit, Persuasive Images: Architecture and the 1939–40 and 1964–66 New York World’s Fairs
June 29–July 27, 2015
Opening Reception, July 9, 2015
FLUSHING, NY, June 4, 2015 — The World’s Fairs of 1939–40 and 1964–65 presented architecture in a variety of modern and postmodern styles. The photo exhibit Images: Architecture and the 1939–40 and 1964–65 New York World’s Fairs will “reassess the conventional perceptions of the Fairs’ architecture, which was often ignored or ridiculed,” says curator Richard Hourahan, archivist, Queens Historical Society. “Examining commissions, designs, and completed projects allows a critical look at the themes and politics behind the Fairs’ creation and at the same time restores the architecture to its epochal significance.”
On view at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College from June 29 to July 27 will be over 100 photographs, selected from an array of local, national, and international archives, depicting rarely seen images of the architecture of both these World’s Fairs. As we look back on the 20th century, this show contextualizes and provides new insights into the significance, power, and cultural phenomena of world expositions.
Little of the actual architecture remains—the New York State Pavilion’s Tent of Tomorrow; the Queens Theatre, Queens Museum, and Aviary of the Queens Zoo; the Louis Armstrong Stadium and the Olmsted Center; and the New York Hall of Science and Terrace on the Park. However, many images of the architecture exist in collections throughout the world. “Persuasive imagery, in fact, was the selling point of the structures to the exhibitors, the Board of Design of the Fairs, and most importantly, the public,” says Hourahan.
The first part of the exhibition looks at architecture: at the 1939–40 Fair, the Art Deco designs of Pierre Patout and Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, the modernist structures of Alvar Aalto and Oscar Niemeyer, and the monumental pavilions of Fascist Italy and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The range of architectural styles at the 1964–65 Fair differed significantly, but was just as persuasive. It included the corporate modernism of Skidmore Owings & Merrill. Eliot Noyes, and Harrison & Abramovitz, as well as the postmodernism of Philip Johnson and Edward Durell Stone.
The second half of the exhibition examines how this persuasion was realized, through display and interpretation of photographs and documents from architectural, historical, and public records.
“This exhibition will also provide a chance to reclaim what the Fairs offered and meant to residents of Queens and to people from all over the nation and the world,” says Godwin-Ternbach Director Amy Winter. “An important part of Queens history that has been lost will be recovered in the exhibition. But we will also recover people’s memories of their World’s Fair experiences by inviting them to record these oral histories within the show, in partnership with the Queens Memory Project” (www.Queensmemory.org).
Over the past year, much attention has been given to the restoration of the deteriorating “ruin” of the New York State Pavilion of the 1964 World’s Fair, from its declaration as a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in April 2014 to the new initiative being undertaken to restore the pavilion.
“The designation of the New York State Pavilion as a National Treasure is most appropriate given the Pavilion’s distinctive architectural style and its connection to the excitement and hopefulness that captivated the world at the beginning of the Space Age,” says Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “The Pavilion’s iconic status has also prompted us to work on securing the funding needed to restore the Pavilion to its former glory and make sure it is preserved for future generations to enjoy. This exhibition at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum will be a fitting tribute to the Pavilion and its historic significance.”
Collections lending to the exhibition include the Alvar Aalto Museum (Finland); Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania; Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University; Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan; Getty Research Institute; Houghton Library, Harvard University; New York Public Library; North Carolina State University Library; and, of course, the Queens Historical Society.
Public programs will include a lecture series by noted architects.
The Godwin-Ternbach Museum, a part of the Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, organizes exhibitions and programs of contemporary and historical significance for the diverse audiences of Queens and the metropolitan region—students, faculty and public alike. It is the only comprehensive collection of art and artifacts in the borough, housing nearly 6,000 works that date from ancient to modern times, representing global cultures of Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America. The museum interprets objects on view in the context of the many traditions and histories that give Queens its unique vitality and richness. All exhibitions and programs are free.