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The Empire State Building: A Celebration in Photographs

90th Anniversary of the World's Most Famous Building

June – August 2021

The Empire State Building: A Celebration in Photographs
The Empire State Building: A Celebration in Photographs
The Empire State Building: A Celebration in Photographs
The Empire State Building: A Celebration in Photographs
The Empire State Building: A Celebration in Photographs
The Empire State Building: A Celebration in Photographs
The Empire State Building: A Celebration in Photographs
01. AP Wirephoto, Where bomber crashed into Empire State Building, 1945. Looking-down detail of damaged building facade with street below visible in left of frame.

01. AP Wirephoto, Where bomber crashed into Empire State Building, 1945

02. Anonymous, Empire State Afire After Plane Crash, ​1945. Street view of a skyscraper with smoke emitting from the upper floors.

02. Anonymous, Empire State Afire After Plane Crash, 1945

03. Weegee, Untitled (Man looking to see where plane crashed into Empire State Building), ​1945. Central man in a crowd tilts his head back to gaze directly upward.

03. Weegee, Untitled (Man looking to see where plane crashed into Empire State Building), 1945

04. Anonymous, Beginning Repairs on Empire State, ​1945. Above view of mid-repair building facade with rebar, tarp, and wood planks visible. A construction worker can be seen on the far right.

04. Anonymous, Beginning Repairs on Empire State, 1945

05. Acme Newspictures, Plane Wreckage Clings to Empire State Building, ​1945. Close-up of damaged building facade with metal protruding from the hole.

05. Acme Newspictures, Plane Wreckage Clings to Empire State Building, 1945

06. New York Journal, A Nice Round Figure, ​1962. Fish-eye lens view of three figures on a balcony of the Empire State Building. The image is distorted so that the view is a circle.

06. New York Journal, A Nice Round Figure, 1962

07. Kimberly Ducoté, Empire State Building, ​1990. Distant, head-on view of the top of the Empire State Building, which occupies the lower center of the frame. Above it is a single cloud.

07. Kimberly Ducoté, Empire State Building, 1990

08. Anonymous, Patterns in Light: the Empire State's controversial beacons, 1956. Distant, head-on nighttime view of the Empire State Building (lower left of frame), with two beams of light streaming up and to the right.

08. Anonymous, Patterns in Light: the Empire State's controversial beacons, 1956

09. Jan Lukas, Souvenirs of New York, ​1964. Miniatures of the Statue of Liberty, Chrysler Building, and Empire State Building for sale on a shelf. A child's face is out of focus behind them.

09. Jan Lukas, Souvenirs of New York, 1964

10. Wendell MacRae, Empire State Building, Lower Levels, ​c. 1930. Geometric abstraction: Window-covered building facade with four visible corners lit from the left, shadows cast to the right.

10. Wendell MacRae, Empire State Building, Lower Levels, c. 1930

11. Roy Schatt, Portrait of the Empire State Building, ​1965. Street-level view peering between two large buildings; the Empire State Building can be seen through a gap between the buildings, very distant and small.

11. Roy Schatt, Portrait of the Empire State Building, 1965

12. John C. Hatlem, Empire State Building, ​c. 1935. Upward-looking street-level view from below the reflective Empire State Building. A streetlight is silhouetted against a clouds and sky on the right of the frame.

12. John C. Hatlem, Empire State Building, c. 1935

13. UPI Photo, Demolishing remains of Pennsylvania Station, ​1966. Workmen in the foreground amongst metal support structures and a crane. The top half of the Empire State Building is visible in the center background against a cloudy sky.

13. UPI Photo, Demolishing remains of Pennsylvania Station, 1966

14. Sam Schulman, Mt. Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary & Lady Hillary, ​1954. A man and woman stand on the right of the frame, both smiling and looking toward the left of the frame. The man is also pointing to the left.

14. Sam Schulman, Mt. Everest conqueror Sir Edmund Hillary & Lady Hillary, 1954

15. Associated Press, Nice Work if You Can Take It, ​c. 1931. Downward-looking view of a man supported by thick ropes suspended against a building. The city can be seen far below and behind him.

15. Associated Press, Nice Work if You Can Take It, c. 1931

16. Wide World Photos, Human Flies as Window Cleaners, ​1938. Downward-looking view of three men suspended against the building facade with the city visible far below and behind them.

16. Wide World Photos, Human Flies as Window Cleaners, 1938

17. UPI Photo, Smog-Bound City, ​1965. A silhouetted woman stands on a balcony, looking out towards a foggy skyline that includes the Empire State Building at the center.

17. UPI Photo, Smog-Bound City, 1965

18. Panorama Studio, Empire State Building & Dirigible "Los Angeles," ​1931. Head-on view of the Empire State Building against a cloudy sky. The nose of a dirigible meets the building's tower on the left.

18. Panorama Studio, Empire State Building & Dirigible "Los Angeles," 1931

19. John C. Hatlem, Empire State Building, ​c. 1935. View from the bottom of subway entrance stairs, looking out and up towards the Empire State Building. A figure in a hat stands on the stairs and is silhouetted against the building.

19. John C. Hatlem, Empire State Building, c. 1935

20. Esther Bubley, Weehawken, New Jersey. View looking east from 50th Street and East Boulevard showing New York Central piers, Hudson River and Midtown Manhattan skyline, 1946.

20. Esther Bubley, Weehawken, New Jersey. View looking east from 50th Street and East Boulevard showing New York Central piers, Hudson River and Midtown Manhattan skyline, 1946

21. Anonymous, Heading Straight for the Empire State Building, 1939. Straight- on view of the top half of the Empire State Building, about level with the highest observation deck. The building occupies the left third of the frame, with the city skyline and horizon on the right.

21. Anonymous, Heading Straight for the Empire State Building, 1939

22. Fairchild Aerial Surveys, Empire State Building Construction, West 34th Street, New York City, ​1930. Aerial view of the in-progress Empire State Building, built up to about half its total height.

22. Fairchild Aerial Surveys, Empire State Building Construction, West 34th Street, New York City, 1930

23. Fairchild Aerial Surveys, Empire State Building, ​1931. Aerial view of the completed Empire State Building from above and to the right. The building occupies the center of the frame.

23. Fairchild Aerial Surveys, Empire State Building, 1931

24. Fairchild Aerial Surveys, Empire State Building, Midtown, NYC, 1931. Aerial view of the top half of the Empire State Building, photographed from the above and to the right. Other city buildings and streets can be seen below.

24. Fairchild Aerial Surveys, Empire State Building, Midtown, NYC, 1931

25. Allen Locker, Empire State Building, ​c. 1965. The Empire State Building fills the center of the frame against a cloudy sky in a skyline view from across a river.

25. Allen Locker, Empire State Building, c. 1965

26. John C. Hatlem, Empire State Building, ​c. 1935. Street view tilted diagonally left showing the Empire State Building between other buildings cast in dark shadows.

26. John C. Hatlem, Empire State Building, c. 1935

27. John C. Hatlem, Empire State Building, ​c. 1935. Street-level view looking up at the base of the Empire State Building, The view is partially obscured by two American flags hanging from the building nearest the photographer.

27. John C. Hatlem, Empire State Building, c. 1935

28. Fritz Neugass, Empire State Building Reflection, ​c. 1948. Distorted reflection view of the Empire State Building's base, looking upward.

28. Fritz Neugass, Empire State Building Reflection, c. 1948

29. Fritz Neugass, Reflections: Empire State Building in a Rain Puddle, c. 1948. Upside-down reflection of the Empire State Building, imaged in a sidewalk puddle.

29. Fritz Neugass, Reflections: Empire State Building in a Rain Puddle, c. 1948

30. W. Eugene Smith, As From My Window I Sometimes Glance, ​1957–1958. Nighttime view of a city street. The Empire State building is in the center background shrouded in fog.

30. W. Eugene Smith, As From My Window I Sometimes Glance, 1957–1958

31. Alfredo Valente, Empire State Building, c. 1933. Sepia tone street view of silhouetted Empire State Building against a cloudy sky.

31. Alfredo Valente, Empire State Building, c. 1933

32. Paul J. Woolf, Times Building Looking South, ​c. 1935. Night time sepia tone cityscape in a vertical composition. The Empire State Building is in the top left of the frame.

32. Paul J. Woolf, Times Building Looking South, c. 1935

32. Sheldon Hine, New York City at Night Atop Radio City, ​c. 1938. Nighttime cityscape in a horizontal composition with the Empire State in the top left quadrant of the frame.

32. Sheldon Hine, New York City at Night Atop Radio City, c. 1938

34. Weegee, West 43rd Street, ​c. 1950. Nighttime street view facing the Empire State Building pictured between an unmarked building on the left and a "Loans" business with a neon sign on the right.

34. Weegee, West 43rd Street, c. 1950

35. John C. Hatlem, New York City Skyline, ​c. 1935. Dark, mostly silhouetted view of the city from across a river. Dark buildings in the foreground. The Empire State is in the center background against a cloudy sky.

35. John C. Hatlem, New York City Skyline, c. 1935

36. Marvin Koner, Empire State Building, ​c. 1955. Grainy vertical composition with the Empire State at the center climbing above surrounding builidings.

36. Marvin Koner, Empire State Building, c. 1955

37. Charles E. Rotkin, Aerial View of New York City, c. 1948. Aerial view in a horizontal composition with the Empire State Building in the top right of the frame.

37. Charles E. Rotkin, Aerial View of New York City, c. 1948

38. Todd Webb, View South from the top of the RCA Building showing the Empire State Building, ​1947. Elevated view of the silhouetted Empire State and surrounding buildings amidst light fog.

38. Todd Webb, View South from the top of the RCA Building showing the Empire State Building, 1947

39. Benn Mitchell, 6th Avenue, NYC, ​1949. Vertical street view featuring men in hats in the foreground, a building marked "Stein's" and flying birds in the midground, and a fog-obscured Empire State Building in the left background.

39. Benn Mitchell, 6th Avenue, NYC, 1949

Press Release

Keith de Lellis Gallery celebrates the 90th anniversary of New York City’s magnificent Art Deco skyscraper in its summer exhibition. After demolishing the famous original Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Fifth Avenue in 1929, the Bethlehem Engineering Corporation took on the world’s most ambitious building project to date: the construction of the Empire State Building, the first 100+ story building. The Chrysler Building, with 77 stories, briefly held the title of the world’s tallest building before being unseated by the Empire State a mere 11 months later. Dwarfing all surrounding buildings, the Empire State stands at 1,454 feet tall. Construction began on March 17th, 1930 and was completed in record time, opening on May 1, 1931. As a tourist attraction, the site found immediate success, collecting a ten-cent fee for a bird’s eye view of New York City from telescopes atop the observatory.

 

The record-breaking height was said to serve a special purpose: for its tower to act as a mooring mast for dirigibles, positioning the building and its developers at the cutting edge of air travel in its infancy. In reality, the ambitious docking station plan was not at all practical: “the notion that passengers would be able to descend an airport-style ramp from a moving airship to the tip of the tallest building in the world, even in excellent conditions, beggars belief.” (Christopher Gray, New York Times, Sept. 23, 2010). The gallery exhibition features an impressive image of the dirigible Los Angeles docked at the tip of the Empire State Building (1931), but this scene did not come to pass, and is in fact a composite photograph. The tower would ultimately be used for radio and television broadcasting.

A day of note in the building’s early history is July 28th, 1945, when an aircraft collided with the 78th floor, resulting in a four-alarm fire and fourteen deaths. The U.S. Army B-25 bomber was en route to Newark, New Jersey when the pilot was disoriented by dense fog conditions. A group of five photographs show a street view of the smoking building, the plane wreckage, and spectator reactions to the crash - the latter captured by infamous street photographer Weegee.

 

A mere two years after its unveiling, the building was featured in its first of many films: King Kong (1933), sealing its position as a cultural monument. In 1964, Andy Warhol set his lens on the structure to create an eight-hour slow motion silent film. Shot facing southeast from the 41st floor of the Time-Life Building, the film simply documents a fixed view of the Empire State from 8:06PM to 2:42AM the night of July 24–25, 1964. Due to its length and experimental nature, the film was met with mixed reviews.

 

As the most photographed building in the world (Cornell University, 2011), there are countless images of the Empire State Building’s recognizable façade. Selected exhibition photographs range from aerial surveys to street views, distorted reflections to detailed studies, and news photographs to artistic compositions, capturing the seminal building from every perspective.