Godwin-Ternbach Museum

Edification value  3/5
Entertainment value  3/5
Should you go?  3/5
Time spent 23 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned This picture book of famous men who loved cats.  Beautifully illustrated and funny and reminded me how much I don’t want to be one of those single guys with cats.  

Cat Book at Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College
Sam Kalda, “Of Cats and Men,” 2017

The entry on William S. Burroughs begins, “In a gentlemen’s club such as this, there are bound to be a few scandals.”

Klapper Hall, Queens College, FlushingQueens College started collecting art in the 1950s, and today holds a collection that, according to their website, encompasses over 5,000 objects from across history.  That makes the Queens College art collection more comprehensive than that of the Queens Museum, and the most encyclopedic in the borough.

As that collection grew, the college eventually decided to create a venue to curate and display it. Founded in 1981, the museum takes its name from its founders: art historian Frances Godwin and art restorer Joseph Ternbach. The Godwin-Ternbach Museum today consists of a medium sized space in the very institutional-looking Klapper Hall.  The museum has a flexible, open floorplan, with super high ceilings and a small mezzanine level overlooking it on three sides.  With its pretty parquet floor, the space reminded me oddly of a basketball court for art.

Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, Flushing

Design from the Faculty

Rather than its collection, the current show examines contemporary design, displaying recent work by faculty members.  That show, called “Design Faculty at Queens College,” covers some 24 artists. It runs the gamut of prints, video, interactive media, social media, and a few random things, like flipbooks, movie posters, and decorated plates fit for a Supermax. 

Design Show at Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College
Emily Waters, “American’s Ten Worst Prisons: The Plate Collection, 2015,” glazed porcelain dinner plates with fired decals and gold plated rims.

I also liked an infographic project by Danne Woo that involved visualizing topical data via software.  Like most people, I generally think of infographics as fairly far from “art.” But cumulatively, I found this inexplicably compelling.

Design Show at Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College
Danne Woo, “Data/Day, January 1, 2017-current,” Printed infographics…variable dimensions

It’s not a large show (it’s not a large space), but the pieces were well chosen, diverse, and generally pretty fun.

Outside the library proper a few display cases held some terrific art books. Another case diplayed some clay figures from China.  And the library across campus had some rather neat prints on the walls of the reading rooms, roundly ignored by the students. Those provided a random, small taste of the Queens Museum’s collection.

Should you Visit the Godwin-Ternbach Museum?

Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens CollegeI confess that I went out to Queens College with low expectations, but the Godwin-Ternbach Museum pleasantly surprised me. I do think the curators could have worked a bit harder on the title of the Design Faculty show.  Otherwise I found it well thought out and well balanced between digital and physical work.

If only it had more room. I would have liked to see more of the college’s eclectic and interesting-sounding art collection. 

And if only the Godwin-Ternbach were easier to get to. No subway lines run anywhere near Queens College–it involves a subway to a bus (or Lyft or Uber). And there’s little else to see nearby. The separate Queens College Art Center isn’t really worth it.

Still, this is a museum to keep an eye on.  It has a good space, a diverse collection, and based on the Design Faculty show, it executes well against its mandate. Anyone interested in the intersection of art and academia should at least consider going.

Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College

For Reference:

Address 405 Klapper Hall, Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, Queens
Website gtmuseum.org
Cost  General Admission:  Free