March 11, 2021

Stan Douglas’s Art in the Moynihan Train Hall

The greatest loss in the heritage history of America was the demolition of Pennsylvania Station in 1964.  From the grandeur of the McKim Mead and White original in 1910:

To the bland and squalid replacement in 1963:

But now, with opening in January 2021 of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Train Hall, Pennsylvania Station is expanding into the adjacent neoclassical James A. Farley Building, the former main post office.  And that looks like this:

Included in the transformation are three site-specific art installations, one by Vancouver artist Stan Douglas (known for the photomural in the Woodward’s Building atrium – more here.)

From curator David Zwirner:

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.

The creation of Douglas’s work – done in Vancouver – is a story in itself, told here in Montecristo:

What an achievement it would be for Vancouver to expand Waterfront Station to the north to include a new suitable transit hub for the many modes of transportation that come together.  And to commission Douglas for a suitable expression of our history and culture.

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  1. Yes, expand Waterfront Station to the north and do it without carbon emissions, and not with offsets, and do it through the power of design and engineering to solve this world emissions issue through technological innovation, and expect this breakthrough to appear marvelously different and refreshingly new compared to the past, a beacon for all the world to follow, yes, do that or don’t do anything at all.

  2. Thank you Gord for sharing this. I love New York and my first visit there was in 1962 when JFK and Marilyn Monroe were still alive. Thankfully Air Canada has and hopefully will fly non-stop from YVR to Newark. My preference for Newark having landed at all three airports is the excellent rail connection to Penn Station.

    We have remarkable photographers in Vancouver and amongst the tops in that genre internationally. Thirty years ago on my 1st visit to Madrid I was at their Contemporary Art Gallery and their ‘special visiting’ exhibition was a photographer who presented huge HD backlit photo’s and one was of a collision between people on a sidewalk and a cyclist and above this documented incident was a street name “Pender Street” and it was at Burrard…that was my introduction to Jeff Wall.

    Then in 2000 when I was at the Tate Modern and it had just opened in its new huge space in the revamped former Bankside Coal fired Generating Station…. who were their first “special visiting” exhibition artists – Jeff Wall and Stan Douglas.

    It’s nice to live in a city where we do not go on and on about how ‘world class’ we are…in some respects we are…but thankfully much quieter about it than some say about a certain central Canada city…a little clue…it’s name starts with “T.” LOL

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