Bill Cunningham’s Personal Items Join New-York Historical Society Collection

The items include Cunningham’s bicycle, camera, and signature blue jacket.

Bill Cunningham. Photo Noam Galai/Getty Images.
Bill Cunningham. Photo Noam Galai/Getty Images.

The iconic items belonging to venerated New York Times street-style photographer Bill Cunningham—including his camera; signature blue jacket; and Biria bicycle, on which he was known for zipping around New York City—have found a new home at the permanent collection of the New-York Historical Society.

Donated by John Kurdewan, Cunningham’s right-hand man, and Louise Doktor, his longtime friend and muse, the effects also encompass his personal library, consisting of over 200 books which are “stuffed with clippings, notes, inscriptions from authors, marginal annotations, and photographs,” according to the press release.

Mr Cunningham's personal belongings to go on display. Courtesy New-York Historical Society.

Mr Cunningham’s personal belongings to go on display. Courtesy New-York Historical Society.

Other objects include a custom-made bicycle helmet—a gift from Bergdorf Goodman—that came in a hatbox covered in images from his famous New York Times column; a 2009 Cartier-made pewter Living Landmark presentation plate; and the Medal of Excellence, presented to Cunningham in 2012 by Carnegie Hall.

The donated items join Facades, Cunningham’s series of photographs in which he fashioned models in period clothing against historic backdrops, which was previously donated by Cunningham himself and exhibited at the New-York Historical in 1976 and 2014.

“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. His death was deeply felt by all of us who knew him and respected his work, so it is with great pride that the New-York Historical Society becomes the new home for his earthly belongings,” said Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society, 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.”

The New-York Historical Society has announced that a selection of Cunningham’s items will be on view this spring.


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