City Life Org – The Godwin-Ternbach Museum Presents Wunderkammer I: Material Pleasures

Galle, Philips after Maarten van Heemskerck | The Triumphs of Petrarch (The Triumph of Fame), 1565 | Paper engraving | Provenance unknown, PO625

New Queens College exhibition explores global material culture through the Godwin-Ternbach Museum’s vast collection

September 28, 2022 – August 10, 2023

“Wunderkammer I: Material Pleasures” The exhibition reveals the breadth and vitality of objects over a period of five thousand years from diverse cultures in extended geographical locations

A new exhibition in the Lobby Gallery, Godwin-Ternbach Museum (GTM) at Queens College, “Wunderkammer I: Material Pleasures”, presents over sixty-five exceptional works from antiquity to modern times drawn from the museum’s encyclopedic collection of 7,000 objects.

Ivory Objects from the Godwin-Ternbach Museum Collection | Gifts from various donors, including Jack and Belle Linsky and Max and Georgina Falk

GTM was founded in 1981 although Queens College’s art collections date back to the year of its founding in 1937. In the sculpture collection, the cultures of Asia, Africa, Egypt, Greece and from Rome, the South Pacific and India, as well as Europe (Medieval and Renaissance), Pre-Columbian, and the Americas, are represented.

Early works in the exhibition include a canopic jar container for viscera, Egyptian, 2060 – 1786 BC. AD, a plaque with a male nude, Egyptian, 300-399, and a wedding casket with scenes from the story of Susanna and the elders, Italian (Venice), mid-14th century. Recent works include an Eskimo Inuit cribbage board decorated with animal motifs, ca. 1900, an elephant tusk depicting Europeans and Bakongo from Zaire, ca. 19th – 20th centuries, and modern works by John Flannagan and Chaim Gross.

Periodically, GTM chooses to highlight the heritage of its founders. This exhibition pays homage to the primary mission and values ​​of Dr. Frances Gray Godwin and Joseph Ternbach. That is, to develop an educational collection for students to handle and study works of art and cultural artifacts without the usual constraints of a museum environment, and to create a general resource for the wider communities of Queens and New York. Their serendipitous introduction by Ternbach’s daughter in 1957 created what is today a world-class institution.

(left) Dr. Frances Gray Godwin, 1908-1979 Falk | Photo courtesy of Edward O’Donnell (right) Joseph Ternbach, 1897-1982 | photo courtesy of Godwin-Ternbach Museum

Beloved professor of medieval art, Dr. Godwin was hailed by art historian and NYU professor Robert Rosenblum upon her death in 1979, “At Queens College, where she taught from 1945 to 1970 , she had become a living fable, a teacher who, fusing enchantment and scholarship, had inspired both love and respect for the history of art.

Rosenblum, Robert. “Frances Gray Godwin, 1908-1979.” Art Journal 38, no. 4 (1979): 282–282.

Along with the vast knowledge of materials and techniques of renowned art restorer Joseph Ternbach, his intellectual curiosity and passion for history brought this awareness to student classes beginning in the mid-1950s. a small Hellenistic bronze of a draped female figure, Ternbach said, “I can only tell you, I never had such great pleasure. When I cleaned this figure, I saw these living folds, the beautiful shape of her body, the beautiful design, the movement of her body – she was so beautiful that I wanted to bite her. Weintraub, Steven.

“Conversations with Joseph Ternbach”, Joseph Ternbach Curator/Collector, Queens Museum (1984), 16-29.

Thanks to the collaboration of Godwin and Ternbach, the museum was able to attract world-class collectors such as Jack and Belle Linsky, Charles B. Rogers, Syril and Walter Frank, Judge Irwin Untermeyer, Ernest Erickson, co-founder of the WPA Federal Works Project and New York Regional Manager Audrey McMahon, and of course works from the private collections of the founders themselves. Later major donors include the Lannan Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and the Estate of Rose Choron, among others.

The exhibition is organized by Louise Weinberg, co-director of the GTM, director of exhibitions and collections and curator. A public opening of the two autumn exhibitions will take place on Wednesday, September 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum. Visit for information on museum entry, hours, location, and directions to campus.

Support “Wunderkammer I: Material Pleasures” is provided by the Milton & Sally Avery Arts Foundation, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Kupferberg Center for the Arts and Queens College, CUNY.

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