Central Park

Tomorrow's World: The New York World's Fairs And Flushing Meadows Park On View At The Arsenal Gallery

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
No. 38

Tomorrow's World: The New York World's Fairs and Flushing Meadows Corona Park opens to the public on June 26 at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park, and will be on view weekdays through August 27. Organized by Jonathan Kuhn, Parks Director of Art & Antiquities, and Jennifer Lantzas, Parks' Public Art Coordinator, the show is mounted on the occasion of the 75th and 50th anniversaries of the New York World's Fairs of 1939-40 and 1964-65.

The display includes never before exhibited vintage images from the Parks Photo Archive, as well as selections from private collections, that illustrate the dynamic evolution and conversion of a vast industrial wasteland (and former wetland) into New York City's fourth largest park. The two World’s Fairs enabled this transformation, while serving as seminal and defining social and cultural events for two generations. The show also includes memorabilia, preparatory drawings as well as two recovered Paul Manship sculptural animals, part of the Armillary Sphere bequeathed by the second fair to the park as a permanent feature, but dismantled and stolen in 1980.

The photos illustrate the gargantuan task of assembling these temporary empires highlighting international and cutting-edge industry, commerce, art and design. The striking images capture the big picture in all its grandeur, as well as private moments that reclaim the experience of visitors. They illustrate advances in art and architecture, as well as the carnival and corporate atmosphere that at times undercut the more high-minded objectives of fair organizers. Surviving iconic structures, such as the Unisphere, New York State Pavilion, and the New York City Building (today's Queens Museum) are featured.

Among the mementoes are improvement brochures, official guides, and the plan for a permanent home of the United Nations at Flushing Meadow. Selections from letters by well known personalities have also been included. One such testimonial by the late science fiction author Isaac Asimov encapsulates the awe and reverence recalled by fairgoers: "The New York World's Fair in 1939 was (for me) Coney Island, and Disneytown, and Heaven all rolled into one..."

If the fairs were exemplary forums of forward thinking, and celebrations of the "global village," the park setting bequeathed to the City is also a subtext of the exhibit. Today Flushing Meadows Corona Park finds itself serving a populace more diverse than any in the nation.

Two evening lectures are planned in conjunction with the exhibition:
“The Washington Bicentennial and the Brooklyn World’s Fair That Almost Was”
with Thomas Campanella, Associate Professor of City Planning at Cornell University on Thursday, July 10, 2014, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

“A Column of Jerash: Controversy, Politics and Archaeological Diplomacy At The 1964-65 World’s Fair” with Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis, Visiting Assistant Professor and Deputy Executive Officer, the MA in Liberal Studies Program, the Graduate Center, CUNY on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

The Arsenal Gallery is located at Fifth Avenue and 64th Street in Central Park on the third floor of the historic Arsenal (today's Parks headquarters). Visitor hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except holidays, and admission is free. This exhibit has been sponsored in part by Con Edison and Duggal.

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