It’s a heart-warming story that starts during an ugly time when anti-Semitism was swirling through Europe, but ends with beautiful art in a public space in the most diverse county in the United States. And now a sequel will begin on Oct. 8.

Queens Museum will unveil Tiffany’s Iridescence: Glass in Rainbow Hues on Tuesday. To be on view until next spring, the exhibition displays Art Nouveau lamps, mosaics, and windows and uses materials to explore the science and artistry behind iridescent sheet and blown glass.

It also relates local history and unites two very successful men.

Egon Neustadt was born in Austria in 1898. To escape persecution for being Jewish, he and his wife, Hildegard, moved to Flushing in 1935. That year, the newly married couple bought their first Tiffany product, a stained-glass daffodil lampshade, in a second-hand shop in Greenwich Village. It cost $12.50 (roughly $250 today), and they couldn’t afford it at first.

They were instantly obsessed.

Over time, the Neustadts amassed a fortune via real estate endeavors while slowly acquiring Tiffany lamps, leaded-glass windows, and bronze desk sets in all shapes, sizes and patterns. Hildegard died in 1961, but Egon continued. In 1967, he purchased more than 250,000 pieces ─ including tiny tiles ─ and 1969, he established The Neustadt, a nonprofit collection dedicated to promoting Tiffany’s work.

He wasn’t done. In 1970, Egon wrote the book “The Lamps of Tiffany.” Then he kept it local in 1995 by donating dozens of pieces to Queens Museum, which established The Neustadt Gallery. Today, it’s the world’s largest and most comprehensive lamp collection ever assembled. (Egon, who died in 1984, also gave 132 Tiffany lamps and windows to the New-York Historical Society and a smaller number of items to the Luce Center.)

Quite a life, but what are these works of art?

Named after Louis Comfort Tiffany, the lamps usually feature stained glass with botanical (wisteria, daffodil, dogwood) or animal (spider, frog, turtle) designs. They explode with vivid colors, hypnotizing patterns, and intriguing textures. There’s a local angle as Tiffany, who lived from 1848 to 1933, and his hundreds of employees created the lion’s share of their products in his studio in Corona, about two miles from Queens Museum. Called the “Stourbridge Glass Company,” it included a furnace and a bronze foundry. Nowadays, P.S. 315 operates on the property, which lies in the vicinity of 43rd Avenue and 97th Place.

Tiffany’s Iridescence: Glass in Rainbow Hues is curated by Morgan T. Albahary and Gregory A. Merkel from The Neustadt. Queens Museum is located in the NYC Building in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. There is free on-site parking.

Images: Queens Museum


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Check out the largest collection of Tiffany glass lamps started by a Queens couple in the ’30s
Check out the largest collection of Tiffany glass lamps started by a Queens couple in the ’30s

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