“Escape to Life: German Intellectuals in New York/The Photographs of Fred Stein,” a photographic portrait of the many famed artists and intellectuals who escaped Germany for the United States in the 1930s, will be on exhibit at NYU Open House (528 LaGuardia, between Bleecker and W. 3rd Streets) from September 29 through November 30. Subways: A, B, C, D, E, F (West 4th Street).
Taken by the noted photographer Fred Stein—himself a German-Jewish émigré who escaped Nazi oppression for the freedom of New York—the exhibit’s 24 images document a stunning migration of talent, one that would change the contours of America’s intellectual landscape and help propel New York, in particular, to an unparalleled position of cultural pre-eminence in the middle of the 20th century.
Archivally printed from original black-and white 35mm negatives preserved for more than half a century by Fred Stein’s son, Peter Stein—head of production in the graduate film program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Kanbar Institute of Film & Television—the photographs offer a broad “cross-section” of the extraordinary firmament of world-changing individuals who came through New York in these years. The exhibition includes such intellectuals, scholars, and scientists as Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, and Martin Buber; the writers Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, and Hermann Hesse; the artists, architects, and composers Max Ernst, Walter Gropius, and Arnold Schoenberg; and the directors and performers Josef von Sternberg, Erwin Piscator and Marlene Dietrich. Each portrait is accompanied by a biographical text panel exploring the significance of the subject’s accomplishments and the circumstances of their exile from their native land.
“Escape to Life” is the first rotating exhibit in the newly opened NYU Open House, a civic and cultural commons where the life of the university engages that of the larger city. Running through the end of October 2011 and open to the public six days a week, free of charge, NYU Open House will offer ongoing and rotating exhibits and a wide array of public events, including film screenings, talks, conferences, and panels. NYU Open House was designed and programmed by James Sanders + Associates, a New York-based architecture studio noted for its multidisciplinary projects, mixing urbanism, history, and cultural interpretation.
The exhibit is co-sponsored by Humanities Initiative at NYU, Deutsches Haus at NYU, the NYU German Department, and the Center for Urban Experience.