On Tuesday evening, December 6, The Al Hirschfeld Foundation celebrated The American Theatre as seen by Hirschfeld with a launch party for the new book and the special inaugural exhibition of the same title at the Museum of Broadway. Hosted by David Leopold (Creative Director of the Foundation, who served as editor of the book and curator of the exhibit), Louise Kerz Hirschfeld (widow of the late artist and President Emeritus of the Foundation), and Lynn Surry (current Foundation President), the special event for invited guests kicked off at 5 pm, with a cocktail reception and book signing at The Algonquin, followed by a private tour of the show at the Museum beginning at 6:30.
Both sites hold particular significance for the legendary artist (1903-2003). Located at 59 West 44th Street, The Algonquin, which opened in 1902, and has been designated a New York City Historic Landmark, is the home of The Round Table – a daily lunchtime meeting place for an illustrious group of regulars from New York’s literary, artistic, and theatrical elite, including Hirschfeld, for over 80 years. And no museum dedicated to Broadway would be complete without the inclusion of Hirschfeld, known as “the Line King” for his renowned calligraphic style, and self-described as a “characterist” for his loving caricatural drawings of the casts, scenes, and creators from more than seven decades of Broadway productions.
According to Leopold, “No one saw more opening nights on Broadway than Hirschfeld, and both the new exhibition and book show his archive of drawings as a contemporaneous account of the productions and performers who helped shaped our popular culture over much of the 20th century, and into the 21st. Here we are, 75 years after the first book collection of Hirschfeld work was printed, and 20 years after Hirschfeld’s final drawing for The New York Times, yet Hirschfeld’s work continues to be as popular as ever with theater fans. Some may remember seeing the production Hirschfeld drew on stage. Younger theater fans may see Hirschfeld’s art as their portal into theater history. Al Hirschfeld would be thrilled to know that his The American Theatre as seen by Hirschfeld would come to fruition with a final edition at last, and honored to see his work exhibited as an inaugural exhibition at the long-anticipated opening of the Museum of Broadway.”
The special exhibition features 25 Hirschfeld drawings and prints from 1928 to 2002, including his impressions of the original productions of Fiddler on the Roof, The Phantom of the Opera, The King and I, Sunday in the Park with George, Funny Girl, Ragtime, Beauty and the Beast, and Hairspray, portraits of Meryl Streep, Julie Andrews, Stephen Sondheim, Liza Minnelli, and John Leguizamo, some signed by their subjects, and a selection of his original sketchbooks, along with posters, programs, and album covers, and a replica of Hirschfeld’s barber chair, in which he sat while doing all the drawings in his career. Visitors also have the chance to create a Hirschfeld portrait of themselves with a new app created exclusively for this exhibition, and there are Hirschfeld coloring pages and crayons available to make the exhibition fun for all ages. In addition to the pieces in the designated gallery, there are other Hirschfeld images on display throughout the Museum.
Get an inside look at the celebration of the book and exhibition here, in a sampling of photos from the special December 6th event (all photos by Deb Miller).
Reception at The Algonquin:
Exhibition tour at the Museum of Broadway:
The American Theatre as seen by Hirschfeld runs through Wednesday, March 15, 2023, at the Museum of Broadway, 145 West 45th Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $39-49 for adults, with Monday-Thursday discounts at $32 for seniors aged 65+ and $29 for students, and special $25 entry on the first Tuesday of every month, plus tax and fees), call (212) 239-6200, or go online. A portion of every ticket sold will be donated to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The museum is open 10 am-10 pm, seven days a week.
The American Theatre as seen by Hirschfeld: 1962-2002 (New York: The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, 2022), ISBN: 9798218021443, 256 pages, hardcover, $60, is available now through The Al Hirschfeld Foundation and Amazon.