New York City lost one of its icons when beloved fashion photographer Bill Cunningham passed away last June, but his spirit will live on at the New-York Historical Society. The museum just announced Cunningham’s personal possessions will be part of its permanent collection.
Donated by his assistant John Kurdewan and longtime friend and muse Louise Doktor, the items include the Biria bicycle Cunningham used to pedal around the city between assignments or in search of street-style subjects, in addition to his Nikon camera and the trademark blue French jacket he wore.
As a New York Times photojournalist known for his “On the Street” and “Evening Hours” columns, Cunningham documented stylish New Yorkers at society events, fashion shows, and on the street, among other locales. The photographer had previously donated a collection of his work to the New-York Historical Society, which was exhibited in 1976 and again in 2014. Titled Facades, the series of 88 gelatin silver photographs depict models in period fashion with historic settings.
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“In 2014, we were thrilled to host a very special surprise party for Bill’s 85th birthday, which coincided with a brand new Facades exhibition,” New-York Historical Society president Dr. Louise Mirrer said in a statement. “We feel extremely privileged and grateful that Bill’s longtime friends John and Louise have chosen to share their bequests with us. These objects will join Facades in our permanent collection, allowing scholars and admirers the opportunity to remember Bill’s legacy for years to come.”
Other personal possessions include a custom-made bicycle helmet gifted to Cunningham by Bergdorf Goodman, the Medal of Excellence, presented to him in 2012 by Carnegie Hall, and more than 200 books stuffed with photographs, clippings, and inscriptions from authors. A selection of pieces from Cunningham’s belongings will be displayed at the museum this spring.
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