Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008

Harvey Stein (American, born 1941). The Hug: Closed Eyes and Smile, 1982.
Digital, inkjet archival print, 13 x 19 in. (33 x 48.3 cm).
Collection of the artist. © Harvey Stein, 2011

New YorkArt & Culture

Thrills and Spills

Relive the ups and downs of Coney Island with a look into the resort's definitive cultural history...

Frederick Brosen

Frederick Brosen (American, born 1954). Fortune Teller, Jones Walk, Coney Island, 2008. Watercolor over graphite on paper, 17 7/8 x 11 ¼ in. (45.4 x 28.6 cm). Courtesy of Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York. Photo: Joshua Nefsky, courtesy of Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York; © 2013 Frederick Brosen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Coney Island’s future is very much up in the air — although not in the way most New Yorkers would like. The historical resort, located on a peninsula at the southern tip of Brooklyn, once pulled huge crowds of holidaymakers keen to escape the oppressive summer heat of the inner city.

The amusement parks of Coney Island were enormously popular in the first half of the 20th Century, but the advent of cheap air travel led to ever-dwindling visitor numbers, and many of the old amusement parks now lie derelict.

Much of Coney Island is in the hands of developers with a history of undelivered regeneration promises, large parts of the real estate has been rezoned for housing use, and property damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 may well have been the final straw for Coney Island as a seaside entertainment destination.

Time for a bit of much-needed nostalgia! The Brooklyn Museum exhibition Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 begins at the beginning, looking at the resort’s heyday through the eyes of a whole host of artists who fell in love with Coney Island both as a physical experience and as an escapist ideal. The show includes 42 photographs from the Brooklyn Museum collection, along with a wonderful collection of paintings, drawings, posters, film, salvaged objects and vintage souvenirs.

Put on your best boater and promenade to the exhibition beginning on 20 November, ending March 2016.


Strobridge Lithographing Company

Strobridge Lithographing Company. The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth /The Great Coney Island Water Carnival /Remarkable Head-Foremost Dives from Enormous Heights into Shallow Depths of Water, 1898. Color lithograph poster, 30 1/6 x 38 3/4 in. (76.6 x 98.4 cm). Cincinnati Art Museum; Gift of the Strobridge Lithographing Company, 1965.829

Steeplechase Funny Face

Steeplechase Funny Face, n.d. Painted metal, 23 3/8 x ¾ in. (59.4 x 1.9 cm). Collection of Ken Harck

Morris Engel

Morris Engel (American, 1918–2005). Coney Island Embrace, New York City, 1938. Gelatin silver print, 10 9/16 x 11 ½ in. (26.8 x 29.2 cm). Orkin/Engel Film and Photo Archive. © Morris Engel

Edward J. Kelty

Edward J. Kelty (American, 1888–1967). Harlem Black Birds, Coney Island, 1930. Photograph, 12 x 20 in. (30.5 x 50.8 cm). Collection of Ken Harck. © Edward J. Kelty

Reginald Marsh

Reginald Marsh (American, 1898–1954). Wooden Horses, 1936. Tempera on board, 24 x 40 in. (61 x 101.6 cm). Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut; The Dorothy Clark Archibald and Thomas L. Archibald Fund, The Krieble Family Fund for American Art,The American Paintings Purchase Fund, and The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 2013.1.1. Photo: © 2013 Estate of Reginald Marsh/Art Students League, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Samuel S. Carr

Samuel S. Carr (American, 1837–1908). Beach Scene, circa 1879. Oil on canvas, 12 x 20 in. (30.5 x 50.8 cm). Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts; Bequest of Annie Swan Coburn (Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn)

Red Grooms

Red Grooms (American, born 1937). Weegee 1940, 1998–99. Acrylic on paper, 56 1/8 x 62 in. (142.6 x 157.5 cm). Private Collection. Photo: Courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York; © 2013 Red Grooms/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pip and Flip, 1932

Pip and Flip, 1932. Tempera on paper mounted on canvas, 48 1/4 x 48 1/4 in. Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1999.96.

Henry Koerner

Henry Koerner (America, born Austria, 1915–1991). The Barker’s Booth, 1948–49. Oil on Masonite, 26 x 40 ½ in. (66 x 102.9 cm). Collection of Alice A. Grossman

Marie Roberts

Marie Roberts (American, born 1954). A Congress of Curious Peoples, 2005. Acrylic on unstretched canvas, 84 x 120 in. (213.4 x 304.8 cm). Collection of Liz and Marc Hartzman

Requiem for a Dream

Requiem for a Dream, production still, directed by Darren Aronofsky, 2000. Artisan Entertainment. Photo: Artisan/Photofest; © Artisan

Homer Page

Homer Page (American, 1918–1985). Coney Island, July 30, 1949. Gelatin silver print, 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm). The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, 2008.47.6. ©Homer Page. Photo: John Lamberton

Joseph Burstyn

Little Fugitive, production still, 1953. Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm). A Morris Engel Production. Photo: Joseph Burstyn/Photofest; © Joseph Burstyn, Inc.; © Morris Engel