Throwback Thursday: Berenice Abbott’s NYC
40th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, from Salmon Tower 11 West 42nd Street, Manhattan. by Berenice Abbott
10"x8" ($24) | 14"x11" ($60) | 20"x16" ($240)
High above the city streets, standing on Salmon Tower at 11 West 42nd Street, looking southwest toward 40th Street...Berenice Abbott’s peculiar vantage point begs to be reimagined in a modern context, and makes our new Vintage Edition all the more intriguing.
Every Abbott edition in our collection is from Changing New York, the artist’s series documenting New York City. This particular image captured the evolving landscape of the city, one that has continued to rapidly reshape—so much so that someone sitting in the exact spot from which Abbott framed this photograph would be confronted with a view so drastically different as to be almost unrecognizable.
The tiered building in Abbott’s image on 38th Street dominates the skyline. In present day Midtown, this building would be dwarfed by modern constructions. To the left of Abbott’s photograph is the Beaux Arts-style Bryant Park Studios, a live-work space for artists at the time. It’s still standing now, though pretty darn diminutive in its 21st century surroundings, and occupied almost exclusively by womenswear contemporary casual showrooms. On the right is the gothic World's Tower, coming in at 30 stories—considered tall when it was constructed in 1913.
Just out of view between Abbott and her architectural subjects is Bryant Park. At the time Abbott shot this image, Bryant Park was not the green oasis it is today—in fact, it was a bit of an eyesore. The Sixth Avenue elevated railway ran nearby, creating a ruckus, rattling the buildings, and raining ash, oil and cinders on passersby.
These implicit comparisons are a huge part of why we find ourselves returning to Abbott's Changing New York—A project that began as a way to portray an urban environment always in flux, now serves as a touchstone providing present day city-dwellers with some historical perspective.
With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200
P.S. Sad to see Labor Day disappear? Alice Gao's new edition will keep those late summer vibes going all year long.