Gotham’s Social Archaeology

The “great families” and cultural icons of New York have been enumerated, and celebrated, from the time of George Washington

The “great families” and cultural icons of New York have been enumerated, and celebrated, from the time of George Washington through Edith Wharton’s Gilded Age and well into the postwar era, when New York became the capital of the art world. This month, museums and other institutions salute the city’s power brokers, artistic pioneers and a few of the common folk.

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Historic House Festival: “The Moveable Feast”

Various Locations

September 24 to 26

Jacobus van Cortlandt, was a 17th-century Bronx real estate developer, Claes Vechte’s house was the site of the 1776 historic Battle of Brooklyn and Edgar Allan Poe wrote “Annabel Lee” in the village of Fordham. All of their houses ended up owned by the city’s Historic House Trust. With about two dozen properties scattered throughout the five boroughs, the Trust likes to boast that it’s the largest museum in the city. This weekend, the houses co-host a massive fall festival. New York’s culinary history is the theme. There’s open-hearth cooking, an apple festival, 19th-century-style teas and, of course, costumed docents.

“Notorious and Notable: 20th Century Women of Style”

The Museum of the City of New York

Now through January 3, 2011

The Museum of the City of New York has just opened its survey of classic city style, showing off the evening wear of seemingly every one of the town’s grand dames from Sunny von Bulow to Mona von Bismarck, who in 1933 became the first American to be dubbed Chanel’s “Best Dressed Woman in the World.” They have Isadora Duncan’s chiffon gown-scarf not included-some of Gypsy Rose Lee’s performance wear, and a flower brooch of Jackie O’s. Think twice before wearing sweatpants.


“Abstract Expressionist New York”

The Museum of Modern Art

October 3 to April 25, 2011

MoMA is redecorating! (And rewriting art history.) This month, the museum is stripping the walls of its fourth-floor galleries to prepare for what could be the biggest, and most controversial, hit in a year of blockbusters. The curatorial staff is dipping into the archives, dusting off nearly 300 works from the museum’s world-class collection of Abstract Expressionism. Jackson Pollocks, Arshille Gorkies and Mark Rothkos, plus works by artists whose names we’ve forgotten but perhaps shouldn’t have, MoMA will argue, will crowd the walls. 


“On Stage in Fashion”

New York Public Library for the
Performing Arts

October 14 to January 22, 2011

There was an era when actors didn’t need a red carpet to wear couture. The performing arts library at Lincoln Center remembers a golden age of Broadway and costume design, when Mary Martin wore Mainbocher and Martha Graham dressed her dancers in Calvin Klein. Besides the costumes-on loan from the Museum of the City of New York-there will be vintage copies of Playbill, videos of well-dressed ballerinas and a film series that includes the classic documentary on drag haute-couture of the 1980s, Paris Is Burning.


“Hipsters, Hustlers and Handball Players”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

October 5, 11 AM


In the years after World War II, Leon Levinstein captured the look of the streets of New York for the people who walked them. Early next month, the Met offers a stylish farewell to their summer exhibition of about 100 Levinstein works with a lecture and luncheon. Savor the irony of spending hundreds of dollars for a private tour of photographs of working-class people-many of whom met Mr. Levinstein while sunning on the city’s public beaches. That said, it’s for a good cause, and luncheon will be served.


Robert Moses: The Panorama

Queens Museum of Art

Though the U.S. Open has come and gone, and there are no reasons left to meet the Mets, there is still much to see in Flushing Meadows Park. The Unisphere may be the most visible remnant of the 1964 World’s Fair, but surely the most remarkable is Robert Moses’ famed Panorama: a 9,335-square-foot model of the city he loved so dearly. From high rises to housing projects, every building is there. It hasn’t been fully updated since 1992, but unless you live in a sparkling new condominium, you’ll be able to say, “I can see my house from here!”


“NUEVA YORK (1613-1945)”


Through Jan. 9, 2011

This sweeping four-century history of the city predates Peter Stuyvesant, and looks at the role Spanish-speaking cultures have played in shaping Gotham. A documentary by Ric Burns rounds out the extensive visual arts portion of the show.


Gotham’s Social Archaeology