Tomorrow - October 10, 2010 - the Museum at Eldridge Street in New York City will introduce a monumental new stained-glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans. This permanent artwork is, in the words of museum's website, "the culminating piece of our 24-year, award-winning restoration of the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, a New York City and National Historic Landmark. The introduction of this installation in our historic sacred site marries the new and the old, and places the museum at the crossroads of art, architecture, history and preservation."
See and hear on video Smith and Gans discuss their concept by clicking here.
The new design will replace a tablet-shaped glass block window, introduced in 1944 after the original stained glass was damaged. At the time, the congregation did not have funds to return it to its original grandeur. The treatment of the replacement in the course of restoration of the entire 19th century synagogue interior highlighted a classic preservation dilemma: How do you treat an important design element that has been lost or altered, and does every phase of a building's history have equal value in the conservation/preservation process.
The Museum staff met with leading architects, preservationists, historians and curators to help decide how to treat the window. I was, in a small way part of this process, when I gave a lecture at Eldridge on the "The Choices We Make." For the Museum, the choices were retain the 1944 glass block, attempt to "replicate" a lost window the original design of which remains unknown, make something new "in the style of" the 1880s, or to create something new and admit it as such. In the end, the latter course was chosen, with the caveat that whatever was new would harmonize with the old. Overall in the tot la restoration of the building the past was well served. There was nothing wrong with acknowledging the present, and looking to the future. According to Robert Tierney, Chairman, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, "With the [upcoming] installation of Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans extraordinary window in this sacred landmark, Eldridge Street's evolution now spans three generations built in the 19th century, preserved in the 20th, and renewed in the 21st." I have frequently written about the Eldridge Street Synagogue project, begun in the 1980s, on just completed last year.
Here are some of the events associated with the window installation:
Open House from 11am to 4pm
Concert at 4:30pm
Wednesday, October 13 from 6:30 to 8:30pm
Museum at Eldridge Street Benefit
Tickets are $500 & $1,000. RSVP is required.
Honoring Kiki Smith & Deborah Gans and with dedication remarks by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and writer Adam Gopnik and music by Paul Shapiro’s Hester Street Orchestra.
Wednesday, November 17 at 6:30pm
Conversation with Kiki Smith & Deborah Gans
$20 adults; $15 students/seniors
Join Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans for a behind-the-scenes look into their vision and process for the Museum at Eldridge Street’s magnificent new stained-glass window.