When the New-York Historical Society reopens in November, the 77th Street Rotunda will be adorned with four works from artist Richard Haas’ Cityscape cycle–paintings which depict a 360 degree view of New York City’s skyline. Originally displayed in the employee dining room of the Philip Morris headquarters in 1982, Haas tells us his goal was to bring the building’s stunning views to everyone. “When I was shown the sub-basement area allocated for the cafeteria I immediately thought of the executive lounges at the top of the building and what great views they had by comparison…I went to the Lincoln Building next door and took 360 degree photos.”
The original twenty-two paintings, which show a simplified view of the skyline at sunset, were donated to New-York Historical in 2008 by Altria (formerly the Philip Morris Company). Given that the paintings were commissioned in 1982, visitors will notice something sadly missing from the skyline: the Twin Towers. But Haas says the towers add to the context of the paintings: “The twin towers dominated the view of lower Manhattan at that time as much as the Empire State dominated the foreground.”
That context is something Haas wants visitors to consider when the work is displayed in the rotunda. “It would be good if people seeing the four works taken from the panorama of Manhattan could have some idea of the original ambiance of the piece or they might not totally understand these pieces,” he said. But context aside, it is paintings like this that can introduce a new generation to the beauty and history of the New York skyline.