De Blasio Administration Seeks to Diversify City Hall Portrait Collection

The walls of City Hall are covered with too many white men.  

That's why the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio is in internal discussions to take down paintings from the historic City Hall portrait collection and replace them with artwork that better reflects the diversity of New York City, sources inside city government told NBC 4 New York.

A spokesman for the administration confirmed that the talks are underway.

"The mayor and first lady believe the art at City Hall should reflect the vibrant diversity of New York City, and discussions on how to update the building’s collection to celebrate that diversity are underway," Press Secretary Marti Adams said in a statement.

From Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in the Blue Room to President George Washington in the Council Chamber to portraits of Mayor Bloomberg and Giuliani, there are plenty of white men adorning the walls of City Hall.

A collection containing masterpieces spanning four centuries, the city's website calls City Hall portrait collection "an integral and historical component of the interiors of City Hall ... One of the outstanding groups of portraits by American artists in the U.S."

But the future of these historic masterpieces is now uncertain.

Administration insiders tell the NBC 4 New York that they anticipate possible push back from the public commission which oversees public art in public spaces.
Some commission insiders say they have concerns about removing the art from its historic home.  The cost of storing the art  could amount to $100 per painting per day, an estimate that is not unreasonable if you consider insurance, according to sources..

This is a long-term project and no final decisions have been made, the sources said..

In recent years, Mayor Bloomberg raised millions of dollars to clean and conserve these aging masterpieces at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars for each painting.  Bloomberg set up an endowment for their long term care.

Most of the portraits were commissioned by the city and include war heroes and presidents with some connection to New York.

According to one commission member replacing some of the City Hall portraits may not a bad idea -- as long the multicultural art that replaces them is, in fact, of masterpiece quality.

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