“Infinite Variety” Quilt Show
sponsored by The Museum of American
Folk Art at the Park Avenue Armory
The Park Avenue Armory is a magnificent and venerable
establishment of another century beloved of the Upper
East Side and all New Yorkers. Huge, tall and stately with
its turrets and fretwork it stands alone in its majesty in the
midst of the most costly residential real estate in the world.
It was built by the Seventh Regiment of honor and history
after President Lincoln’s call for volunteers in 186l. The
ownership of the land under it and the sky above it is widely
disputed and its handling has been the subject of lively
contention for years among the City and State of NY, its
neighbors and the historic landmark interests.
On the first floor of the building are formal reception rooms
clad in panelled mahogony and elaborate wainscotting, with
working fireplaces, intricate herringbone floors, hung with
larger than life portraits, embellished velvet banners and coats
of arms. Everywhere in the corridors there are mementos of
battles fought, wars won and military heros. The early gaslight
chandeliers have been preserved and electrified. Up a secret
elevator and to a secret floor is the US Army Mess, a public though unadvertised restaurant serving some of the finest meals in the City. Further upstairs is a floor or two used by the City to house some of its least fortunate.
The quilt show is hung in the “drill space” a city block square with
a concrete floor and eight story high vaulted buttressed ceiling.
The space has been used by many arts, antiques and notable shows. The quilts have been hung in tiers, on struts and buttresses anchored between wires suspended from the ceiling, in large circles and octagons the centers of which can hold two dozen people. There is a portion of the collection on waist high displays in straight lines. All is well lighted and the quilts can be seen both back and front.
The quilts are all masterpieces, one of a kind, from three centuries,mostly the nineteenth. All are red and white, some appliqued, some pieced, all intricately and densely hand quilted. There is no visible damage and they are pristine and gorgeous.
My poor prose is inadequate to describe their beauty but I can testify that the skill that went into making them was enormous. There will be a book. This extraordinary display of the 650 pieces is the gift to New York of Joanna Semel Rose in honor of her eightieth birthday and it is a partial preview of her bequest to the Museum. Thank you Mrs. Rose!
There is a free standing retail store in one corner of the room where books and memorabilia can be purchased. Forty five minutes after opening it was too densely populated to even get near it. There is also a free standing restaurant in another corner. There is a cell phone audio tour and a free Iphone and Android app.
The museum has continuing displays of its permanent quilt collection on display for weeks to come both at its main installation on 53rd Street and at its annex in Lincoln Center. The Armory show is open until March 30.
This show has drawn national and international attention and it is
Mrs. Rose’s hope that it will travel far and wide.
March 27, 2011