75 years ago, Al Hirschfeld began to hide his daughter's name, NINA, in the designs of his drawings when she was born in 1945. According to the artist he put it "in folds of sleeves, tousled hairdos, eyebrows, wrinkles, backgrounds, shoelaces —anywhere to make it difficult, but not too difficult, to find." Over the next half century Hirschfeld tried to end what he called "a national insanity," but he "learned, the hard way, to put Nina's name in the drawing before I proudly display my own signature."
Sunday mornings looking for NINAs was a custom shared by New York Times readers, a game played with children and grandchildren. Finding NINAs was an unspoken initiation into the worlds of Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Hollywood. For Hirschfeld, drawing NINAs became second nature, and they appeared spontaneously as he worked, forcing him to count them at the end like everyone else. At a reader’s suggestion in 1960, he began to put a number next to his signature when there were more than one NINA to hunt for.
In this exhibition we have gathered drawings that all touch on some part of NINA history, from the very first drawing to the one with the most NINAs (it is probably not the one you are thinking of). These images will show the different ways he chose to hide it, and what happened when he left it out, or made the foolish mistake of trying to include other names. We wish you happy hunting for NINAs in these works, and the thousands of others we have on our site.