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Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825–1861

September 19, 2000–January 7, 2001

The New York Crystal Palace, 1853

New York's presence on the international stage of world culture was heralded by the 1853 "New-York Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations," the focus of this gallery. The exhibition, also known as The New York Crystal Palace, was housed in a cast-iron and glass building on the present-day site of Bryant Park, at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street. Both the structure and the exhibition itself were modeled on and intended to rival London's Great Exhibition of 1851 (the first World's Fair). The 1853 exposition is explored through American works displayed there, including the renowned Greek Slave (modeled 1841–43; carved 1847) by Hiram Powers, now in the collection of The Newark Museum; a rare suite of rosewood seating furniture in the Louis XIV style by Julius Dessoir, a gift in honor of the Museum's 125th anniversary in 1995, shown for the first time in this exhibition; and a recently rediscovered Gothic-style carved oak bookcase (The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art) made by Gustave Herter, who was to become America's premier cabinetmaker and decorator by the end of the Civil War. O. A. Gager and Company, a New York City retailer, fascinated Crystal Palace visitors with an impressive display of wares made by the United States Pottery Company of Bennington, Vermont. Referencing the original 1853 presentation, the gallery features the ten-foot-high ceramic center monument as well as many smaller works, from the Bennington Museum and the Metropolitan's collection.