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Exhibition design for the Museum of the City of New York
PROJECT TITLE: MANHATTAN NOON . CLIENT: MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK . YEAR: 2007/2008
DESIGNED AT BUCHANAN-SMITH LLC . ART DIRECTION: PETER BUCHANAN-SMITH
Manhattan Noon was an exhibition held at the Museum of the City of New York in winter
2007/2008. The exhibition presents the works of two New York City artists from two different eras,
both connected by a shared concern: New York City’s streets at noon. Photographs by Gus Powell
depicting the city’s contemporary noontime street life are paired with poems by Frank
O’Hara about lunch hour in mid-twentieth century New York.
Instead of displaying O’Hara’s poems as graphics on the museum walls, copies of the poems are printed on
half-letter size sheets of paper and affixed to the walls. Visitors are free to tear out sheets of O’Hara’s
poems from the walls to take with them and keep as mementos of the exhibition. This act of tearing out sheets from the
walls can be seen as analogous to the act of tearing out tabs from street flyers or receiving handbills from handbill
passers. The design scheme for displaying O’Hara’s poems, then, does double duty as a conceptual device that
reinforces the exhibition's “street life” theme.
A clock (which displays the actual time), reminiscent of clocks found in mid-twentieth century offices
(the world in which O’Hara composed his lunch poems), hanging at the entrance to the exhibition relays a constant
visual reminder of the role of time in the exhibited artworks. By placing the artworks in the context of real
time, the exhibition acquires different meanings depending on the time of the day it is viewed. A noontime
viewing, for instance, infuses the exhibition with a particular meaning as the artworks are being viewed at
the exact same time of the day when the artworks were created — what the museum visitors are seeing and reading
in the exhibition is actually happening on the streets outside the museum at that exact same moment.