When you go to the Museum of the City of New York to see the Eero Saarinen show (as you must: stop to watch the film of Aline Saarinen on the Today show talking about TWA, and the final triangular section being inserted into the St. Louis Arch), be sure to go upstairs. Tucked away in the south side of the second floor is the show Only In New York: Photographs from Look Magazine a small exhibit that could have been a lot bigger, showcasing Gardner Cowles Jr.’s picture magazine’s vision of the city from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. (There’s even a connection between the two shows, via Florence Knoll, who designed the Look offices.) There’s a lot of excellent photography, as well as the oscillation between the witty and the gritty that I associate with New York Magazine.
Times Square showgirls, socialites and top models all get warts-and-all treatment very different from the icy imagery I associate with beauty at the time (the very image Betty Draper is always trying to live up to on Mad Men). There’s a very clever portrait of MoMA director Rene d’Harnoncourt, master of all the miniature modern icons he surveys (Matisse, white china, that ball bearing from the first Industrial Design exhibit). And the photo above, a counterpart to the one snapped at the Beaux Arts Ball of 1931, where the architects of the Chrysler Building, the Waldorf-Astoria, the Museum of the City of New York and others dressed as their famous creations. Look simply had the architects stand behind shimmering cut-outs of their buildings in 1957—that’s Gordon Bunshaft on the far left, with Lever House; Ely Jacques Kahn appears in both photos.