03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Hang Out With Marsalis, Domingo, Gilbert and Others -- For Free

How's this for a holiday gift? Time with Placido Domingo, Alan Gilbert, Peter Martins, Wynton Marsalis and Audra McDonald, all free of charge.

That is one of many highlights of an exhibit, "Lincoln Center: Celebrating 50 Years," at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, on display through January 16. The exhibit uses seven themes to trace the history of the 12 resident organizations of Lincoln Center, which is celebrating is 50th anniversary in 2009.

Urban fabric and renewal documents the center's beginnings, with images and memorabilia from its May 1959 groundbreaking ceremony, such as the shovel used by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Architecture features a selection of architectural renderings and photographic models, from original, late 1950's designs through current revitalization projects.
Rare performance images, personal correspondences and video excerpts depict the cast of luminaries in the personalities section; besides Domingo, Gilbert, Martins, Marsalis and McDonald, other artists here include Leonard Bernstein, Beverly Sills, George Balanchine, Leontyne Price, James Levine and Jessye Norman.

Another section uses behind-the-scenes photographs, video clips and documents to illustrate Lincoln Center's pursuit of state-of-the-art technology, such as its introduction of opera supertitles. The education section highlights the center's commitment to arts education; artists who once trained and studied there include Martin Scorsese, Darci Kistler, Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone. The final section explores the marketing of Lincoln Center, like a newspaper ad for women's hats inspired by its various buildings.

Thomas Mellins, co-author of New York 1960 and curator of the exhibit, said he searched through thousands of objects in the 12 resident organizations' archives and elsewhere to choose the 400 in the show.

"I didn't necessarily expect to find a Coke ad from Time magazine with a model of Lincoln Center as part of its illustration. At a warehouse in New Jersey I came across Maurice Sendak's set piece for New York City Opera's Love for Three Oranges. And I hoped but did not expect to find Leontyne Price's headpiece from Antony and Cleopatra. The Metropolitan Opera had the costume, I tracked down the headpiece to a private collector in New Jersey," he said.

Other noteworthy objects on display include Leonard Bernstein's concert tuxedo; the feathered and sequined gown Beverly Sills wore at her farewell gala performance; the iconic yellow dress from the Tony-award winning production of Contact, and an Andy Warhol poster commissioned for the 1967 New York Film Festival.

Another show at Lincoln Center -- also free -- that should not be missed is provided by the newly redesigned Revson Fountain on Josie Robertson Plaza. The fountain -- which has concentric rings of alternating, continuously flowing and pulsing jets of water, and is illuminated at night -- was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, architects of the recently renovated Alice Tully Hall and the High Line. Its new choreography was designed by WET, which also choreographed fountains at Manhattan's Columbus Circle and the Bellagio Las Vegas hotel.