When Art Dallied With Poetry on 53rd Street
I don’t believe in golden ages, but I do believe in golden moments. Culturally speaking, New York City has had its share, and one began at the end of 1950 when Tibor de Nagy Gallery opened on 53rd Street near Third Avenue in Manhattan.
To the casual passer-by the undertaking couldn’t have looked auspicious. The gallery was in a dumpy tenement several blocks from the glamorous art hub of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue. Most of its artists were young unknowns. And who was Tibor de Nagy? A refugee banker from Hungary with a fancy pedigree but little cash, and a single New York accomplishment: he was a founder — along with a bulky, Buffalo-born leprechaun of a puppeteer and art fanatic named John Bernard Myers — of a children’s marionette theater.
The new gallery with his name had other curious features. It was showing modest portraits and still lifes at a time when abstract painting, the bigger the better, was considered the advanced style. It had female artists on its roster, quite a few. Most eccentrically, the owners, de Nagy (pronounced de NAHJ) and Myers, seemed as interested in new poetry as they were in new art, and were producing a line of books combining the two.