Fashionable Architecture

Fashionable Architecture
Bill Cunningham, Grove Street (ca. 1840s), Between Bedford and Hudson Streets, 1968-1976. Image via New-York Historical Society.
Bill Cunningham, Grove Court (ca. 1840s), Between Bedford and Hudson Streets, 1968-1976. Image via New-York Historical Society.

Bill Cunningham, Grove Street (ca. 1840s) at Bedford Street, 1968-1976. Image via New-York Historical Society.

Today a the new exhibition Facades will open at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibition showcases New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham’s eight-year photo project, which began in 1968. Cunningham amassed a collection of vintage clothing from the late 18th century to the 1950s and then paired period-dressed models with historic New York City buildings and locations. The photographer donated 88 silver gelatin prints from the series in 1976, and now 80 of them compose this new exhibition.

Some of these sites included in Cunningham’s work include Village locations like 17 Grove Street, the Stuyvesant Fish House on Stuyvesant Street, Grove Court, and 23 Van Dam Street.
The exhibition will run from March 14th to June 15th at the New-York Historical Society

Bill Cunningham, Stuyvesant Fish House (built 1804), 21 Stuyvesant Street between Second and Third Avenues, 1968-1976. Image via New-York Historical Society.

Bill Cunningham, Stuyvesant Fish House (built 1804), 21 Stuyvesant Street between Second and Third Avenues, 1968-1976. Image via New-York Historical Society.

The collection of work not only reflects the interplay between fashion and architecture, but also highlights the undercurrent of late 1960s and early 1970s apprehension about the perilous financial shape of the city, as well as its quickly disappearing historic structures. As the Times notes, “Facades was begun not long after the demolition of Pennsylvania Station, the McKim, Mead & White masterpiece that still haunts the city’s memory. The obliteration of Penn Station was the most dramatic example of a process that has plagued New York from its earliest days, the destruction of the city’s greatest buildings — including the Garden at Madison Square, the Vanderbilt Mansions, the City Hall Post Office, Colonnade Row and the old Waldorf-Astoria hotel — driven by the irresistible force of property values. In 1965, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was founded to fight the loss of the city’s architectural heritage and one can’t help seeing the case for preservation in these photographs.”

Mr. Cunningham at work outside the old New York County Courthouse. Image via New-York Historical Society.

Mr. Cunningham at work outside the old New York County Courthouse. Image via New-York Historical Society.

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Drew
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Drew was GVSHP's Director of Administration until March 2015.

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