If you’re heading out to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park tonight to see the US Open men’s semifinals, make sure to grab Fuku’s McEnroe and also take a moment to admire the New York State Pavilion’s $3 million paint job. The long overdue touchup was completed last year as part of a $6 million effort to begin restoring those big, weird concrete structures you always see on your way to the airport. One of the 50 amazing things about the ’64-’65 World’s Fair, the Tent of Tomorrow served as a performance and exhibition space while the Astro-View observation towers were the tallest thing in the fair.
One of the structures’ designers was Philip Johnson, who’s been been getting a lot of attention lately: the furniture he created for the Four Seasons was recently auctioned off ($10,000 ashtrays, anyone?). And now, an exhibit at City Reliquary is shining a light on the Pavilion’s history.
“Life of an American Ruin: Philip Johnson’s New York State Pavilion” opens Saturday, October 1 with a screening of Modern Ruin, a documentary that had its premiere last year at the Queens Theatre. As it so happens, the circular structure that houses the Queens Theatre once served as the Pavilion’s Theaterama, where a 360-degree film about New York State’s sundry attractions was shown. The entire pavilion was lit up for the occasion of Modern Ruin‘s premiere.
Modern Ruin was directed by Matthew Silva, a co-founder of People for the Pavilion. The advocacy group has been raising awareness about the pavilion’s history via initiatives such as a call for ideas about the structures’ redesign and reuse. You can hear Silva talk about that and more when he does a Q&A at City Reliquary after the film’s screening.
As for the rest of the exhibit, it’ll consist of now and then photos by Bill Cotter, Phil Buehler, Marco Catini, and Robert Fein, items from the Museum of Interesting Things, and a temporary installation by Aaron Asis that evokes the Pavilion’s suspension-cable roof, which at the time of the fair was the largest in the world. Its multi-colored plastic ceiling panels were taken down in 1976 and the Tent of Tomorrow has lied fallow pretty much ever since, with the exception of the occasional Men in Black shoot and Open House New York tour.
While we wait to hear whether the Pavilion will once again open during OHNY Weekend in mid-October (Update: A spokesperson says it will indeed be part of OHNY weekend, though details haven’t yet been released), it looks like this’ll be the best way to bask in the structure’s storied history, so get on it.