The forthcoming Cedar Bar exhibition will feature the original sign which hung over the entrance with paintings and drawings by ten artists seen at the bar in accompanying photographs by Fred McDarrah and Arthur Swoger. The eleven artists in the show are Norman Bluhm, Nicolas Carone, John Chamberlain, Herman Cherry, Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock and David Smith.
The Cedar Bar was located at 24 University Place between 1945 and 1963. When the bar and building were torn down in 1963, the sign was rescued by Salvatore Scarpitta who replaced the broken neon lights and had it mounted on the present metal stand on wheels. The Cedar Bar sign is double sided painted galvanized metal and measures 46 inches diameter, 15 inches deep.
An illustrated brochure for the exhibition will include a passage from Irving Sandler’s book A Sweeper-Up After Artists (2003, Thames & Hudson Inc.) In it, Sandler writes the following:
"…The owners [John Bodner and Sam Diliberto] gave us credit, took messages, and held mail. Most of us were fans of baseball and boxing; the only time a TV set was allowed was during the World Series. In 1956, during the Dodger-Yankee series, John bet his share of the Cedar against Kline’s studio. John won, but he settled for a painting.
The Cedar was a nondescript place – in the front, a bar; in the rear, booths and tables. It was no different in appearance from thousands of lower-middle-class American taverns, except that there were English sporting prints on the walls, but no other art. At one point in the late fifties, Bodner decided to upgrade the bar’s décor; we objected, and he yielded to our wishes. But we allowed him to repaint the walls – from a drab green to an equally nondescript gray…
As at the Waldorf Cafeteria, the primary activity at the Cedar was arguing about art. Indeed, artists came to the bar just to talk. That was more important than drinking, at least in the early days. In retrospect, the move from the Waldorf Cafeteria to the Cedar marked the switch from coffee to beer and then to whiskey, even for artists who could not afford it, since their temporarily more affluent friends would stand drinks."