The dogs of Park Avenue

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Portraits of canine companions of King Charles, Queens Victoria and Barbara and George H.W. Bush will grace new midtown museum


  • Developer Peter Kalikow (center left) in front of his building at 101 Park Avenue, which will be the new home of the American Kennel Club and its Museum of the Dog. At far left is AKC President and CEO Dennis Sprung, with AKC executives, dog owners, dog handlers, and of course, dogs. Photo: Nancy Epstein / H.J. Kalikow & Co. LLC

  • "Two Dogs" is an 1839 classic by the British animal painter Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, who specialized in dogs and horses. It is part of the collection of the Museum of the Dog, which is moving from St. Louis to 101 Park Avenue. Image: American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog

  • “I Hear a Voice” is an 1896 masterpiece by the English-American canine portraitist Maud Alice Earl (1864-1943). Her work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of the Dog and could be displayed in the museum’s new home at 101 Park Avenue. Image: American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog

  • "Alexander and Diogenes" is an undated and whimsical work that was described as in the style of Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, the famed canine painter also known for his many imitators. Image: American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog

Park Avenue is going to the dogs — literally.

Foxhounds, deerhounds, mastiffs, salukis, clumber spaniels, long-haired terriers, Great Danes, Japanese Chins, Alaskan Malamutes and English Setters — or at least their artistic representations — will soon occupy a spanking new home on East 40th Street.

It’s a mere trot from Grand Central. And it’s poised to become the city’s new Purebred Central. Why there? As is so often the case in New York, there’s a deeply simple two-word answer: Real estate.

The American Kennel Club just signed a lease for 60,000 square feet of space in the Kalikow Building at 101 Park Ave. in midtown. As part of the deal, it is taking 18,500 square feet in which it will house a cultural treasure, the AKC Museum of the Dog.

Billed as one of the only museums in the world dedicated to a concept that lives forever – “love and devotion” — it is a one-of-a-kind collection of great canine paintings created by animal-loving artists who capture noble and soulful dogs, and the good cheer they bring their owners.

“The mission is to share with the dog-loving population the values and the beauty of the human-canine bond through art,” said Gina DiNardo, executive secretary of the American Kennel Club.

“We’re thrilled to be coming back to New York and bringing with us the largest collection of fine dog art in the world,” she added.

Coming back? Yes, then known as the Dog Museum of America, it was founded in 1982 in the New York Life Insurance Building, at 51 Madison Ave., where AKC, itself founded in 1884, then had it headquarters. It moved to St. Louis in 1987, was renamed the AKC Museum of the Dog in 1995, and now, it is coming home.

Radio KMOX in Missouri lamented the move as a “dog-gone shame.” But for New Yorkers, a dog-centric art gallery that showcases dogs throughout history in portraits and sculptures is pretty doggone great:

“The American Kennel Club has been around for 133 years,” marveled Richard T. Nasti, executive vice president of H.J. Kalikow & Co., LLC, which built and owns the 49-story tower. “They’re the gold standard in pedigree, and we like to think of our building as the gold standard in commercial real estate, so it’s a good match.”

The nonprofit AKC, which runs the world’s largest purebred dog registry and is the governing body for some 22,000 dog shows a year, will move its headquarters, now at 260 Madison Ave., into the building’s fifth floor by the fall of 2018, along with as many as 100 employees.

By early 2019, the museum will occupy contiguous space spread out on the ground floor and third floor. The Kalikow Building doesn’t have a second floor, Nasti explained, because the soaring lobby is roughly 24 feet tall.

The key question of course: Will dogs be allowed into a museum that is dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and interpretation of the art, artifacts and literature depicting man’s best friend through the ages?

Well, don’t expect to see the American English Coonhound or the Wire-haired Pointing Griffon cantering through the corporate lobby. But the museum will have a private dedicated entrance on East 40th Street, and details of canine access are still being worked out, both parties say.

DiNardo said dogs will be permitted “for special events,” and Brandi Hunter, an AKC vice president, adds, “We are working on this.”

Said Nasti: “We have a very nice relationship with them, and we have an understanding on a limited basis, but we need to work out details.”

The museum’s collection of 2,500 artworks includes paintings, prints, drawings, watercolors, sculptures, bronzes, porcelain figurines and a wide array of decorative arts objects.

There is also a dog library with 3,000-plus historic books and dog-related publications that depict the breeds, animal artists and the history of dog shows, as well as classic research works, like the 1890 “Illustrated Book of the Dog” and the 1910 “Dogs and All About Them.”

Among the showpieces of the collection:

• A portrait of King Charles II of England, along with his siblings and their dogs, before he ascended to the throne in 1660. The dog-loving monarch gave his name to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, his preferred pet.

• A 1990 painting of Mildred Kerr Bush, better known as “Millie,” the pet English Springer Spaniel, beloved of Barbara and President George H.W. Bush. Entitled “Millie on the South Lawn,” the work is by the contemporary American pet portraitist Christine Merrill. Millie, born in 1985, died in 1997.

• An 1839 masterpiece called “Deerhound & Recumbent Foxhound,” also known simply as “Two Dogs,” an oil on canvas by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, the 19th-century British canine painter who was a regular fixture in the court of dog-loving Queen Victoria.

• An 1896 classic, “I Hear a Voice,” by the English-American canine portraitist Maud Alice Earl, and a 1920 work, “His Majesty’s Clumber Spaniels at Sandringham,” by Reuben Ward Binks, who worked on royal commissions for King George V, is also featured.

“We’re all dog lovers here, and we’re very excited to have them in our building,” Nasti said.

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