In the new exhibition Sinatra: An American Icon, debuting this March at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, at Lincoln Center, visitors will have a chance to look deeper into the life and legacy of Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra: An American Icon, curated by the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles, is the official exhibition of the 2015 Frank Sinatra Centennial. The free multimedia exhibition features never-before-seen photos, family mementos, rare correspondence, personal items, clothing, artwork, and, of course, music. Most of the pieces come directly from the Sinatra family and have never been on public display before. The traveling exhibition will be unveiled at The Library for the Performing Arts, and will also feature many artifacts from the Library's collections.
"Frank Sinatra was a remarkable musician and actor," says Jacqueline Z. Davis, Barbara G. and Lawrence A. Fleischman Executive Director of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. "Sinatra has both a special place in the history of American performing arts, but also a special significance here in New York. Is there anyone in our town, as Sinatra liked to call New York, who doesn't deeply identify with his classic take on 'The Theme from New York, New York'?"
In conjunction with the exhibition, there will be a variety of public programs at the library that delve deeper into Sinatra's impact on American culture, as well as a trio of concerts in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center, and a June symposium as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven.
The exhibition illustrates Sinatra's long and complicated life. His father's fireman's badge and his own ID card are among the items from his Italian- American childhood in Hoboken, New Jersey. He learned to sing mostly on his own. Popular music's first true teen idol, Sinatra began his career making girls swoon: copies of "Swooners Universe," his fan club newsletter, can be seen in the exhibition: while fronting big bands in the 1940s. His GRAMMY Awards, Oscars, and other honors are also on display.
Sinatra sang in the studio and performed onstage for a half century, as seen in behind-the-scenes photographs, ticket stubs, and recordings. Audiences adored him. Yet, he wasn't a saint. He hated the incessant attention given him, especially in the media. Gossip columnists made him crazy; they seemed to bring out the worst in him. He loved women and women loved him back. He could be demanding one moment, but a tender, giving philanthropist the next.
He turned to painting to ease his mind and restore his spirit. Sinatra's home art studio, complete with his actual easel and paints, will be recreated within the exhibition, along with many of his paintings on display publicly for the first time ever.
Artifacts from Sinatra's film career will also be on display. While his early films were fun and fluffy, gradually he learned the art of acting and in 1953, cast as Private Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity, he won his first Oscar (Best Supporting Actor) for his riveting performance and he never looked back.
The 1960s were a busy time for Sinatra. He made movies, recorded albums, toured, and became a record company executive, creating the Reprise Records label, an affiliate of Warner Bros. He excelled on the business side of music, and is legendary as a talent scout. He made records with his daughter Nancy and elevated the art of popular singing in the midst of the rock revolution with such standards as "Strangers in the Night."
Through it all, Sinatra never stopped singing, never stopped making music, either onstage or in the studio, and never stopped being Sinatra. By the time of his death in 1998 at age 82, he had won so many accolades and awards and had made his mark in American popular music so dramatically and deeply that there was no one who could step into the shoes of this "saloon singer," the term he liked most when describing himself. "Just let me sing, baby," he once said. And that's exactly what he did. And everyone who heard him felt a little bit better about the world and themselves.
Sinatra: An American Icon is on view March 4 through September 4, 2015 at the Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery, Shelby Cullom Davis Museum, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza.