New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects

New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects


Each region of the nation has its own distinctive history and identity. The New York’s Capital Region—consisting of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga Counties—is no different. But what best identifies the region? What events, objects, people, and ideas have contributed to its character and uniqueness?

To learn the answers, we presented these questions to the numerous museums, historical organizations, libraries, and residents of the Capital Region. The fifty objects that were ultimately selected present an exciting history of the Capital Region, including well-known favorites but also unexpected surprises. Some of the fifty objects characterize very broad topics like the textile industry and the Hudson River School of art, while others embody large populations of people who shaped the character of the region, such as the Dutch and the Iroquois. Many objects represent specific people or events, such as writer William Kennedy and the Battle of Saratoga. In some instances, the objects represent themselves, like the GE Monitor Top refrigerator and Albany’s beloved Nipper statue. A complementary image accompanies each of the fifty objects, providing context and additional information.

Overall, the fifty objects clearly demonstrate that this narrowly circumscribed part of New York State has played an astonishing role in shaping the history of the nation and, in several instances, the world beyond the confines of our national borders.

Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection

The Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection has been heralded as “the greatest collection of modern American art in any single public site that is not a museum.”

Following a procedure that was established during the construction of Rockefeller Center, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller assembled a commission of art experts to select work for the Plaza and personally signed off on each acquisition. Ninety-two pieces of monumental “New York School” art—paintings, sculptures, and tapestries—were acquired for the collection, sixteen of which were commissioned for specific sites on the complex.

The collection includes noted artists such as Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, David Smith, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Nevelson, Clyfford Still, Isamu Noguchi, Joan Mitchell, and Alexander Calder. Charcoal Black and Tan, painted by Franz Kline in 1959, demonstrates how he deliberated over his pieces and reworked them repeatedly as seen in some areas where the paint is built up and colors are mixed together. Kline, like other Abstract Expressionists, were often called “gesture painters” because they often applied paint in quick, emotionally expressive strokes, usually without direct reference to recognizable imagery. Kline retained his powerful, sweeping style up to his death in 1962.

Charcoal Black and Tan

Franz Kline


Oil on canvas

Courtesy of New York State Office of General Services, Bureau of Curatorial & Tour Services

Empire State Plaza

c. 2015

Digital photograph

Hand-colored engraving and etching on paper

Courtesy of New York State Office of General Services, Bureau of Curatorial & Tour Services

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