One of the best institutional “attics” belongs to the New-York Historical Society, judging from the new Drawn by New York show at the Taft Museum of Art, running now through Jan. 17. (The Society itself, established 205 years ago, dates from a time when “New” and “York” were hyphenated.)
For this show, around 80 pieces were chosen from a larger version of the exhibition, which appeared earlier at the Society’s headquarters.
The purpose is to highlight drawings in watercolor, ink, graphite, pastel and other media. Although the Society began collecting drawings and watercolors in 1816, before any other public institution in the United States, “these works have gone largely unseen,” says Lynne Ambrosini, Taft Museum’s chief curator.
The contents of anybody’s attic are unlikely to have a unifying theme, and the Society’s is no exception. There must have been a scramble to find one for this show with its scattered subject matter, wide range of dates and variety of media. But by calling it Drawn by New York, the play on words suggests links one way or another to the city or the state, and reflects the society’s collecting philosophy: “seen through the prism of New York.”