Queens Museum

Queens Museum

The outside of the museum building
Established 1972[1]
Location Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens, NY 11368
Coordinates 40°44′45″N 73°50′48″W / 40.74583°N 73.84667°W / 40.74583; -73.84667Coordinates: 40°44′45″N 73°50′48″W / 40.74583°N 73.84667°W / 40.74583; -73.84667
Type Art museum[2]
Director Laura Raicovich[3]
Public transit access
Website www.queensmuseum.org

The Queens Museum, formerly the Queens Museum of Art, is an art museum and educational center located in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in the borough of Queens in New York City, United States. The museum is housed in the New York City Building, which was built for the 1939 New York World's Fair, and which then hosted the United Nations General Assembly from 1946 to 1950. The museum itself was founded in 1972, and has, among its permanent exhibitions, the Panorama of the City of New York, a scale model of the five boroughs built for the 1964 New York World's Fair.

The Queens Museum has focused on outreach and access for a wide range of audiences, and is known for international contemporary art exhibitions that reflect the cultural diversity of the borough. The museum’s Education Department is the first in America to employ art therapists in a dedicated, fully accessible classroom, while the Public Events department has hired community organizers to work on local improvement initiatives. The Queens Museum is, in addition to a fine arts collecting museum, also a historical site, community center, and educational classroom.

Mission statement

The Queens Museum is dedicated to presenting the highest quality visual arts and educational programming for people in the New York metropolitan area, and particularly for the residents of Queens, a uniquely diverse, ethnic, cultural, and international community.

The Museum fulfills its mission by designing and providing art exhibitions, public programs and educational experiences that promote the appreciation and enjoyment of art, support the creative efforts of artists, and enhance the quality of life through interpreting, collecting, and exhibiting art, architecture, and design.

The Queens Museum presents artistic and educational programs and exhibitions that directly relate to the contemporary urban life of its constituents, while maintaining the highest standards of professional, intellectual, and ethical responsibility.[4]

Plaque outside the Museum commemorating the UN General Assembly meeting on the site from 1946-1950.

Building history

The Queens Museum is located in the New York City Building, the historic pavilion designed by architect Aymar Embury II[5] for the 1939 World’s Fair. From 1946 to 1950, the pavilion was the temporary home of the United Nations General Assembly, and was the site of numerous defining moments in the UN’s early years, including the creation of UNICEF, the partitions of both Korea and Palestine, the adoption of the “Uniting for Peace” resolution and more.[5][6][7]

In 1964, the building was renovated by architect Daniel Chait and was once again used as the New York City Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair, where it displayed the Panorama of the City of New York. The other holdover from the 1939-1940 World's Fair, the Billy Rose Aquacade and Amphiteater, was also renovated for the 1964-65 World's Fair but fell into disrepair in the 1980s and was torn down in 1996.[5][6]

In 1972, with minor alterations, the north side of the New York City building was converted into the Queens Center for Art and Culture, later renamed the Queens Museum of Art.[5][6] In 1994, the building underwent a further renovation, with architect Rafael Viñoly reconfiguring the structure into galleries, classrooms, and offices. For many years, half of the building was an ice skating rink.[5][6]

The museum embarked on a $69 million[6] expansion project in 2009,[8] which was originally slated to be completed in October 2013.[5] Grimshaw Architects, along with the engineering firm of Ammann & Whitney, developed plans to add an additional 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) of exhibition, education and office space as well as eight new artist studios,[8] thereby doubling the museum’s size to 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2), as it will take over the entire New York City Building. The ice skating rink, which had occupied the southern half of the building for six decades, was relocated to a new state-of-the-art recreational facility in the northeastern section of Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. The expanded museum reopened in November 2013 after closing for several months, with a new entrance at Grand Central Parkway.[5][6]

A lamp from the Tiffany collection

Collections and exhibits

Permanent collection

The museum's permanent collection consists of around 10,000 items, over 6,000 of which are documents and objects related to the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs, some of which are on long-term display. Recent acquisitions, either through purchase or donation, include works by Salvador Dalí, Mark Dion, Andrew Moore's photographs from Robert Moses and the Modern City (a collection of 20th century photographs from the 1964 World's Fair Kodak Pavilion), crime scene photographs from the Daily News Archive (1920s–1960s), and nearly 1,000 drawings by the court reporter and political cartoonist William Sharp.

Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass

Since 1995, the museum has maintained a partnership with the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany glass. Selections from the collection are on long-term display, drawn from a large private Tiffany collection assembled by Dr. Egon Neustadt and his wife Hildegard starting in the mid-1930s. The collection consists of windows, lamps, and related objects and also boasts an archive of nearly 300,000 pieces of flat and sheet glass formerly used by the Tiffany Studios. An archive containing representative samples of each type, color, texture and pattern of this material is being established for exhibition and study. The history of the creation of Tiffany's work is stressed in the Queens Museum exhibitions, as Tiffany Studios and Furnaces was once located within studios in Corona, which were closed in the 1930s.[9][10]

Panorama of the City of New York

The Panorama of the City of New York, as it appeared in 2011

The best-known permanent exhibition at the Queens Museum is the "Panorama of the City of New York", which was commissioned by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair. A celebration of the City’s municipal infrastructure, this 9,335-square-foot (867.2 m2) architectural model includes every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs; that is a total of 895,000 individual structures. The Panorama was built by a team of 100 people working for the architectural model makers Raymond Lester Associates in the three years before the opening of the 1964 World’s Fair. The Panorama was one of the most successful attractions at the 1964 Fair, with a daily average of 1400 people taking advantage of its 9 minute simulated helicopter ride around the City.[11] Each year the Queens Museum hosts the Panorama Challenge, a trivia contest run by The City Reliquary. Contestants use the Panorama to identify various New York City landmarks.

After the Fair closed, the Panorama remained open to the public, and Lester’s team updated the map in 1967, 1968, and 1969.[11] After 1970, very few changes were made until 1992, when again Lester Associates was hired to update the model to coincide with the re-opening of the museum. The model makers changed over 60,000 structures to bring it up-to-date at that time.[11]

In March 2009, the museum announced the intention to update the panorama on an ongoing basis. To raise funds and draw public attention, the museum will allow individuals and developers to have accurate scale models made of buildings newer than the 1992 update created and added, in exchange for a donation of at least $50. More-detailed models of smaller apartment buildings and private homes, now represented by generic models, can also be added.[11]

As of May 2015, the original twin towers of the World Trade Center were still on the map, even though some new buildings have been built on the actual site; the museum has chosen to allow the vanished structures to remain until construction is complete, rather than representing the ongoing construction. The first new building to be added under the new program was the new Citi Field stadium of the New York Mets; the model of the old Shea Stadium was to be displayed elsewhere in the museum.[12]

The New York City Panorama was featured in two 2011 works: the movie New Year's Eve directed by Garry Marshall, and the book Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.

Relief Map of the New York City Water Supply System

For the 1939 World’s Fair, city agencies were invited to produce exhibits for the New York City Pavilion. The Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity (a New York City Department of Environmental Protection predecessor agency) commissioned the Cartographic Survey Force of the Works Progress Administration to create the large Relief Map of the New York City Water Supply System and watershed. Work began in 1938, and a team of map builders toiled over the map with an immense depression-era budget of $100,000 (equivalent to $1,704,000 in 2015). At 540 square feet (50 m2), the map was too big for the allocated space in the city pavilion, resulting in its elimination from the World’s Fair. Ten years later, the map made its first and only public appearance at the city’s Golden Anniversary Exposition in Manhattan’s Grand Central Palace.[13]

By the start of the 21st century, the 27-piece map was in desperate need of conservation. In October 2006, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Queens Museum sent the historic display to McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation Lab in Oberlin, Ohio, for restoration. Over the next 18 months, conservators and technicians worked on the model full-time, removing over 70 years of accumulated dirt and re-paintings. Clearing away the dirt and debris, they found much of the original geography and painted details to be intact or recoverable. Road maps and satellite images were used to restore lost portions of the model.

Near the 70th anniversary of the model and the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of the Catskill System's construction, the map was restored to its original form and was installed in the New York City Building, where it remains on long-term loan.[14]

Special exhibitions

The Queens Museum's ongoing exhibition schedule reflects the Museum’s identity as a local and international art center — local in its focus on the myriad communities to which it belongs, and international in its embrace of artists from every corner of the globe – the very internationalism that is reflected in the hyper-diversity of Queens.

Thus internationalism has been a mainstay of the museum’s programming for decades. Examples include Across the Pacific: Contemporary Korean and Korean American Art (1993), Out of India: Contemporary Art of the South Asian Diaspora (1998), Modern Odysseys: Greek American Artists of the 20th Century (2000), and Translated Acts: Performance and Body Art from East Asia 1990-2001 (2001). Perhaps the best known of this series of international efforts was Global Conceptualism: Points Of Origin, 1950s-1980s. Presented at the museum in 1999 and followed by a national tour, the exhibition and its catalog were groundbreaking looks at different approaches to conceptual art.

Asian artists Cai Guo-Qiang (1997) and Yue Minjun (2008) had their first American museum shows at the Museum.

Queens International was established in 2002 as the Museum’s biennial survey of the artists living or working in Queens and celebrated the diversity of the borough. The first iteration of the show assembled 42 artists, more than half of whom were born outside the US and retain a strong connection with their countries of origin. In 2004 curator Hitomi Iwasaki culled 51 artists from more than 400 submissions and in 2006 curators Jaishri Abichandani and Herb Tam selected 53 artists from more than 1000 submissions. Queens International has reflected both global influences and the contemporary realities of the New York City borough, representing a full spectrum of generations, ethnic and national identities, career standing, media, and genres. Over the first three biennials, more than 60% of the artists were women, and 62% were immigrants.

While the Museum sees Queens International as a means to measure the pulse of contemporary Queens, a particular focus is also placed on exhibitions that reflect the history of the site and the diversity of New York City. Examples include Salvador Dalí: Dream of Venus (2003), highlighting Dalí’s 1939 World’s Fair pavilion, a surrealist installation that stood in close proximity to the New York City Building during the Fair;[15] Ralph Bunche: An American Legend (2004), chronicling the life, achievements, and legacy of Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche, an African-American United Nations diplomat and Queens resident, who oversaw some of the most important negotiations between 1946 and 1950. Down the Garden Path: The Artist’s Garden After Modernism (2005) used the Museum’s location in a park to feature newly commissioned works; and Robert Moses and the Modern City, the first major exhibition devoted to the planner since his death in 1981, was organized by architectural historian Hilary Ballon, presented simultaneously at the Museum of the City of New York, and the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University.

The museum has also been involved in commissioning or exhibiting site-specific work, including Wendy Ewald’s collaboration with Arab-American middle schoolers in Jackson Heights; Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao’s photographic series on the Flushing subway line (7 train); and Pedro Lasch’s work with the local organizations Asociación Tepeyac de New York and Mexicanos Unidos de Queens.

Located on the second floor of the Queens Museum, this exhibit has items from both the 1939 and 1964 World's Fair. This exhibit has a long term history with Queens Museum because both the 1939 and 1964 World's Fair were held at Flushing Meadows- Corona Park, which is the where the museum is present today. The 1939 collection displays the theme of, "Building the World of tomorrow." The 1964 World's Fair display encompasses the technological accomplishments achieved at that time. This visual display contains over 10,000 items in total from both fairs.[16][17]

Education and outreach

Seniors at an educational program
Passport Fridays

Community relations

Each year, through exhibitions and programs the Queens Museum serves about 200,000 visitors. Attendance is drawn from Queens, the other NYC boroughs and Nassau County as well as international visitors. Museum audiences are distinguished by the diversity of visitors, reflecting the variety of ethnicities living in the borough. Over the last 20 years, a demographic shift has transformed Queens into the most culturally diverse county in the nation, according to the 2000 census: 37% of the population is White, 25% Latino, 20% African-American, and 18% Asian. There are roughly 138 languages spoken in Queens, and more than half of the households are run by people born outside of the United States.

Education programs

The Queens Museum's learning programs annually engage over 30,000 adults and children of all ages and abilities. The majority of its offerings have been created in partnership with cultural, community and educational organizations in the borough. The ArtAccess program, led by three staff art therapists, annually serves children and adults with physical, developmental, and emotional disabilities, as well as varying learning styles and expressive needs. Using such techniques and materials as tactile aids, music, and games, ArtAccess is nationally known and has been honored by Mayor Bloomberg and Very Special Arts. The New New Yorkers program,[18] provides courses to adult immigrants in digital and fine arts in Spanish, Mandarin and Korean, as well ESOL through the Arts, all in collaboration with the Queens Library.

Family Programs include free Sunday Drop-in Art Workshops for the whole family and a monthly First Sunday for Families event. School Programs range from single class trips to multi-year museum-school partnerships. Students study art, architecture, design, geography, and history in connection with the museum’s exhibitions and collections. Other ongoing school programs include after school classes in partnership with specific schools and Queens Teens, winner of the 2008 Presidential Coming Up Taller award, a multi-year career training program that immerses high school students in museum administration, museum education, and art interpretation, while building leadership, communication, and organizational skills. Senior Programs include a film series, classical music concerts and slide talks.

Public events

The Public Events Department at the Queens Museum was founded in 2002, and in response the museum’s attendance has grown as Queens residence without prior museum-going habits began coming to museum events in greater numbers. Museum Public Events programs fall into four major categories: exhibition-related events, community partnerships, "Passport Fridays", and the "Heart of Corona Project".

The museum offers visitors a range of film screenings, dance performances, musical experiences, and public dialogues to provide a point of entry for understanding exhibitions. For example, the exhibition Generation 1.5 was complemented and contextualized through artists’ talks, a poetry series in the galleries, and dance performances exploring the theme of bicultural identity.

By developing ongoing relationships with more than 40 community organizations (e.g. Asian Americans for Equality, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, and the Latin American Cultural Center), the museum has co-produced and co-presented events and programs to highlight Queens cultural assets while attracting diverse audiences. Programs have included “Think Globally, Film Locally,” the two-day series of films representing the diverse populations and stories of Queens, the South Asian Music & Dance Festival, the Jewish Culture Festival, as well as cultural events such as El Dia del Niño (Day of the Child), Chinese New Year, and Queerin’ Queens. Cinemarosa, (“Queens’ Only Queer Film Series”) maintains its monthly schedule of screenings at the museum.

Since the premiere of "Passport Fridays" in 2004, this series of movies-under-the-stars every Friday evening in the summer has grown in scope, genre, and reach. Each event features a full evening of dance and music performance followed by an outdoor film screening in front of the museum in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, all of which are free of charge. The Queens Museum's dance residency program, Dance in Queens, a partnership with Topaz Arts, attracts contemporary dance companies in who rehearse for free in their gallery space to develop new choreography.

"The Heart of Corona Project" is a multifaceted off-site project in Corona. Comprising large scale community festivals, public art, performances, and clean-up days, the initiative seeks to bring attention to, and help form partnerships around the improvement of Corona Plaza at 103rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue. The project is a partnership with numerous local groups as well as healthcare providers and Elmhurst Hospital.


  1. "Building History". Queens Museum of Art. Retrieved 2015-05-02.
  2. "Queens Museum of Art: About". ARTINFO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  3. Hirshon, Nicholas (April 15, 2008). "Queens Museum of Art 'will respect past in an up-to-date institution'". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
  4. "Mission Statement". Queens Museum of Art. Retrieved 2014-11-28.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Queens Museum Today". Queens Museum of Art. Retrieved 2009-03-18.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Cotter, Holland (7 November 2013). "A Local Place for a Global Neighborhood". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  7. "Gale Virtual Reference Library - Document - United Nations". go.galegroup.com. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  8. 1 2 Halperin, Julia. (July 16, 2013), "Queens Museum to double in size" Archived July 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. The Art Newspaper
  9. The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass official website
  10. The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, Queens Museum website
  11. 1 2 3 4 "Panorama of the City of New York", queensmuseum.org; Queens Museum Panorama pamphlet
  12. Barnard, Anne (March 16, 2009) "You, Too, Can Own a Piece of the (Mini) City" The New York Times
  13. Plaque in the Relief Map of the New York City Water Supply System exhibit
  14. "A Watershed Moment: Celebrating the Homecoming of the Relief Map of the New York City Water Supply System" New York City Department of Environmental Protection
  15. Schaffner, Ingrid, Schaal Eric (photos) (2002). Salvador Dalí's "Dream of Venus" : the surrealist funhouse from the 1939 World's Fair (1 ed.). New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 978-1568983592.
  16. "Queens Museum". www.queensmuseum.org. Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  17. "Gale Virtual Reference Library - Document - World's Fairs".
  18. "QUEENS MUSEUM ▪ New New Yorkers - Arts and Education Space for Immigrant New Yorkers".
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