press release

For 150 years, Coney Island has lured artists as a microcosm and icon of American culture. Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 is the first major exhibition to explore the kaleidoscopic visual record they created, documenting the historic destination’s beginnings as a watering hole for the wealthy, its transformation into a popular beach resort and amusement mecca, its decades of urban decline culminating in the closing of Astroland, and its recent revival as a vibrant and growing community.

This exhibition charts shifts in artistic styles and national moods through approximately 140 objects. Included are paintings of the Coney Island shore in the 1870s by William Merritt Chase and John Henry Twachtman; modernist depictions of the amusement park by Joseph Stella and Milton Avery; Depression-era scenes by Reginald Marsh; photographs by Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, Weegee, and Bruce Davidson; Coney Island carousel animals and sideshow ephemera; and contemporary works by Daze and Swoon.

Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008 is organized by Robin Jaffee Frank, Chief Curator, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut. The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Connie H. Choi, Assistant Curator of American Art, Brooklyn Museum.

Generous support for this exhibition is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence, the Henry Luce Foundation, and The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Inc.