The New-York Historical Society family is saddened by the death of Nina Gray, a staff curator at New-York Historical from 1985 to 1990 and a co-curator of the groundbreaking 2007 exhibition, A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls. The following obituary was published in the New York Times:
GRAY–Nina, an independent curator of American decorative arts, died at home in Manhattan on May 20, 2013. Nina was born in Boston and attended Phillips Academy, Andover. She received a B.A. from Connecticut College and an M.A. from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. A well known curator of decorative arts and architectural historian, Nina held curatorial positions at The New-York Historical Society from 1985-1990 and later at The Park Avenue Armory. She served as a consultant to numerous institutions including The Brooklyn Museum, The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute and several National Park Service properties. She is the author of numerous publications, many the result of her ground-breaking scholarship on the work of Louis C. Tiffany. Nina is recognized for the diversity of her projects, publications and discoveries of previously unknown aspects of American decorative arts that stand as a testament to her passion, diligence and exceptional acuity in research and connoisseurship. She was also an avid collector in many areas, a brilliant craftsperson and active participant in the civic life and historic preservation of the Manhattan neighborhood where she lived for thirty years. Nina was a loving and dedicated wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and colleague. She is survived by her husband John W. (Jack), her children Alexander, a student at Trinity College, and Julia, a student at Northwestern University; her mother, Dr. Selma Rutenburg of Boston; and siblings Richard Rutenburg of Paris and Dr. Karen Segal of New York. She was predeceased by her father, Dr. Alexander Rutenburg and sister, Jeanne Rutenburg. A memorial will take place at the Ethical Culture Society at a future date. Memorial donations may be made to The New-York Historical Society.
Two recent gifts to the New-York Historical Society made in Nina’s honor are shining testament to her scholarship and influence. Earlier this year, American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation donated a piece of the mosaic façade of the Tiffany Studios showroom on Madison Avenue. The massive mosaic, which originally spelled out “Tiffany Studios” and the firm’s street numbers on Madison Avenue, was probably made in the women’s glasscutting department. It is made up of glass, stone, and concrete, and contains distinctive glass produced in Tiffany’s Corona furnces. As Nina was instrumental in bringing the contributions of Tiffany’s women artisans to light and also made important inroads into the scholarship on Tiffany’s glass, the mosaic is a particularly fitting object to honor her contributions.
In May, another monumental gift was made in Nina’s honor. Clare Yellin, the granddaughter of master ironworker Samuel Yellin, donated the artist’s prototype for the bank teller windows designed around 1920 for the Federal Reserve Bank in lower Manhattan. Typical of Yellin’s work, the teller cage has a formal beauty combined with whimsical flourishes, including long-necked fanciful creatures that emerge from the finials. Serendipitously, the architects of the Federal Reserve Bank, York & Sawyer, also designed the Historical Society. The Yellin ironwork pays tribute to Nina’s significant scholarship on late-nineteenth-century American metalwork.
The mosaic, currently installed in the Luce Center near the Tiffany lamp collection, will be featured in the Historical Society’s new Tiffany gallery, scheduled for completion in 2016. The Yellin ironwork will soon be displayed in the Smith Gallery on the first floor.