Stan Douglas in Conversation
Join Stan Douglas on January 28 for a conversation hosted by Public Art Fund and Cooper Union about his new permanent public commission Penn Station’s Half Century, 2020, a photographic series that reconstructs nine remarkable but forgotten moments from the history of the original Pennsylvania Station (1910–1963).
On January 1, 2021, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the opening of the new Moynihan Train Hall, along with three unprecedented site-specific art installations by Stan Douglas, artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, and Kehinde Wiley, counted among the most innovative and revered artists working today. As part of the Governor’s visionary transformation of the nation’s busiest transportation hub, the artworks are commissioned through a partnership between Empire State Development (New York State’s economic development agency) and Public Art Fund (the leading non-profit that commissions and presents art in public spaces). A testament to New York’s creativity, diversity, and richly layered heritage, the three monumental commissions complement the new cutting-edge Train Hall, while embracing its civic character. Offering the public a fresh perspective on the history and grandeur of the original Pennsylvania Station and James A. Farley Post Office, Douglas’s, Elmgreen & Dragset’s, and Wiley’s installations bring a sense of wonder and humanity to these public spaces, and will evoke civic pride and delight for generations to come.
Douglas's work, titled Penn Station’s Half Century, draws on archival research to reconstruct nine remarkable but forgotten moments from the history of the original Pennsylvania Station (1910–1963) that capture the serendipity and poignancy of daily life. These vivid evocations of the city’s forgotten history include Bert Williams (singer, comedian, and the first African-American to direct a motion picture) instigating an impromptu vaudeville show with fellow performers stranded in the station during an epic snow storm of 1914, the final moments of affection between soldiers and their loved ones before being deployed in 1941 for duty during World War II, and the soundstage from director Vincente Minnelli’s 1944 love story The Clock, staring Judy Garland.
Douglas photographed live actors in period costume and seamlessly combined them with digitally recreated interiors of the demolished station. The resulting images pay tribute to McKim, Mead & White’s original station, and to the layers of human experience that bring our civic spaces to life. The series of photographic panels are located within four seating alcoves in The Ticketed Waiting Room.
All permanent installations are now on view.
Read more in The New York Times
Images: Stan Douglas, 22 April 1924 and 7 August 1934, from Penn Station’s Half Century, 2020. Commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund for Moynihan Train Hall. Photo by Nicholas Knight