The many sides of New York

You don’t have to look far at all to see how diverse a city New York is.

Each person, from the celebrity to “everyman,” has his or her own story. Each site, from the local street corner to the famed entertainment venue, has its own story to tell. And each item, from a soup ladle to a beloved jacket, a sightseeing brochure to a concert poster, can be tied to a moment in history.

Those are a few of the sentiments evoked by the new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, which WAG got to walk through right before it opened to the public.

“Collecting New York’s Stories: Stuyvesant to Sid Vicious” offers quite a reflection of life in New York City – a celebration of its many facets, both those familiar and more obscure.

Anyone with a love of New York and its history will delight in this sweeping exhibition, which fills two museum galleries with a wealth of memorabilia and photographs culled from the hundreds of additions to the museum’s permanent collection over the past three years, representing moments from the Colonial era through contemporary days.

One gallery is devoted to memorabilia, including maps (such as the 1800 map of Governor Petrus Stuyvesant’s property) and posters (including a Milton Glaser work promoting a Simon & Garfunkel concert), fashions (from Arnold Scaasi, for example) and accessories (the hatbox from William J. Millinery, the original firm of noted fashion photographer Bill Cunningham) and decorative items (silver service) and so much more.

The larger gallery offers a journey through the city’s streets and clubs, homes and public spaces as depicted by photographers ranging from Allan Tannenbaum (his striking 1978 shot of “Sid Vicious Under Arrest for the Murder of Girlfriend Nancy Spungen, New York”) to Harvey Wang, who studied at Purchase College. Wang’s “Avenue C, New York,” evokes a 1980 neighborhood moment – a group of young baton twirlers in costume, perhaps awaiting their performance in a parade – in sharp detail.

Other images feature games such as hopscotch to celebrities ranging from John Lennon and Yoko Ono to the Marx Brothers, Occupy Wall Street demonstrators to subway scenes, club kids to pre-gentrified Times Square, all captured by photographers who include Martha Cooper, Bruce Davidson, Yousef Karsh, Janette Beckman, Sally Davies and Walter Rosenblum.

It’s an exhibition that, like New York, takes you many places, evokes many feelings – and, just as often, many memories.

Plan to spend some time in these galleries.

“Collecting New York’s Stories: Stuyvesant to Sid Vicious” continues through Dec. 31. The museum is at 1120 Fifth Ave. (at 103rd Street).

For more, visit mcny.org.

– Mary Shustack

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