On October 17 and 18 the annual Open House New York Weekend was in full swing. Now in its 12th year, OHNY is an inspiring city-wide event, opening up hundreds of New York’s most architecturally and culturally significant spacesÔÇòmany of which are not usually accessible to the public. Sites in all five boroughs offered special tours, talks, performances, and other special events. The long awaited 34th MTA station at 34th Street-Hudson Yards was a modern marvel featuring a massive ceiling mosaic accompanied by a discussion by the artist, Xenobia Bailey. One could visit the impressive Italian Renaissance style lobby of the Cunard Building or gaze at the landmarked Modernist interiors of the Four Seasons Restaurant; You could even play “the life of a Googler” by touring the company’s New York offices on Eighth Avenue and 15th Street, or catch a last glimpse of the incredible Eero Saarinen TWA terminal at JFK Airport, before its transformation into a luxury hotel.
This marked The Center for Italian Modern Art’s inaugural participation. Supported by a terrific group of OHNY volunteers, we welcomed over 350 people throughout the day. Visitors enjoyed CIMA’s loft space, beautifully renovated by Irina Verona Architecture and had the opportunity to ask Irina questions as she led two OpenDialogue tours at 11am and 1pm. Additionally, CIMA’s fellows offered tours of the Giorgio Morandi exhibition in the afternoon.
Among our fellow SoHo Arts Network sites, the Drawing Center offered special tours of their site with structural engineers of BuroHappold Engineering, revealing how historic cast-iron industrial buildings can be retrofitted for use as contemporary exhibition spaces. And the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation opened their doors on both days, so allowing visitors to explore this extraordinary home and studio, which remains as it was during Gross’s lifetime.
On Sunday I headed over to the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum to lead a tour of their historic building. Before I became the director at CIMA, I wrote a book about the history of this museum, which is housed in Andrew Carnegie’s mansion. We had a great time exploring the house, talking about what it had been like 100 years ago, when Carnegie was hosting dinner parties with people like Mark Twain, Marie Curie, and Woodrow Wilson; when some 25 servants, almost all from Carnegie’s homeland of Scotland, lived there and worked behind the scenes to make the place run; how he would awake each morning to the sounds of the organ being played in the front hall; and how he created the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the first modern philanthropic organization, at the mansion to continue his charitable operations even after his death.
Want to see more? Check out OHNY’s Facebook page for fantastic photos of the weekend from all over New York. Don’t miss this great weekend next October. The Center for Italian Modern Art hopes to participate again next year!
*Heather Ewing is the Executive Director of the Center for Italian Modern Art.