Articles

A Guide to New York City’s Historic Artist Studios

Edward Hopper's studio on Washington Square (photo by Garrett Ziegler/Flickr)
Edward Hopper’s studio on Washington Square (photo by Garrett Ziegler/Flickr)

In New York City’s constantly changing urban landscape, artist studios can be ephemeral. Reborn as private condos, such as Willem de Kooning’s West 22nd Street space, or demolished, like Andy Warhol’s first Silver Factory on East 47th Street, many of these historic sites are inaccessible or lost. Several of the city’s buildings constructed specifically for artists are now demolished or have high rent. Those that remain are rarely recognized; only this July did the studio of Jean-Michel Basquiat at 57 Great Jones Street receive a historic plaque.

However, there are artist studios that are preserved, or transformed, and publicly accessible, with paint still sometimes splattered on their floors. Here are nine of New York City’s surviving artist workspaces.

Edward Hopper

3 Washington Square North, Greenwich Village, Manhattan

From 1913 until his death in 1967, painter Edward Hopper lived and worked in the fourth floor of a modest 19th-century townhouse on the north side of Washington Square Park. At the time, Greenwich Village was an active artist community. Now 3 Washington Square is part of the New York University (NYU) Silver School of Social Work, with components of the space Hopper shared with his wife and fellow artist Josephine preserved.

An easel marked with paint and a printing press rest near the old pot-bellied stove, which was fueled by coal carried up the four flights of stairs (here’s a video previously shared by Hyperallergic of the Hoppers in their small studio). According to Vanishing New York, NYU attempted to boot the Hoppers back in 1947 with a rent increase, although they stayed until they were the only remaining tenants. The studio is open to the public by appointment, and is regularly a part of the annual Open House New York.

Keith Haring

676 Broadway, Noho, Manhattan

The Keith Haring Foundation, housed in Keith Haring's former studio (courtesy the Keith Haring Foundation)
The Keith Haring Foundation, housed in Keith Haring’s former studio (courtesy the Keith Haring Foundation)

Before his death in 1990, Keith Haring established the Keith Haring Foundation to manage his estate and support nonprofits for children, education, and research related to AIDS. The foundation’s offices at 676 Broadway are actually in his former studio where he worked from 1985 until 1990, with traces of colorful paint maintained on its surfaces and the checkered floor familiar from studio portraits of Haring. And, being that it’s the Keith Haring Foundation, framed work by the artist abounds on the walls and even adorns the furniture. Gwarlingo has a great photo tour through the fifth floor space showing how it functions as an office while guarding his dynamic visual legacy.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney

8 West 8th Street, Greenwich Village, Manhattan

New York Studio School
Inside the former studio of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney at the New York Studio School (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

This May, the former studio of sculptor and Whitney Museum of American Art founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney launched its regular public tours (as covered on Hyperallergic). Now part of the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture, the studio was one of several on MacDougal Alley where artists in the early 20th century transformed former stables and haylofts into light-filled workspaces.

The studio has reminders of this stable function, as well as Whitney’s revamp of the brick-walled loft which eventually expanded into a complex that included the Whitney Studio Club and the first Whitney Museum. A ceiling by Robert Winthrop Chanler, sculpted between 1918 and 1923, has strange spirits, dragons, and animals, which ascend from an incredible fireplace decorated with plaster flames. Public tours are available to book online, and as a bonus they go through the former studio of sculptor Daniel Chester French, now a New York Studio School gallery space.

Donald Judd

101 Spring Street, Soho, Manhattan

Donald Judd's former home and studio at 101 Spring Street (photo by Trevor Patt/Flickr)
Donald Judd’s former home and studio at 101 Spring Street (photo by Trevor Patt/Flickr)

Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd’s five-story studio and home at 101 Spring Street opened to the public in June 2013, with art by Judd and his contemporaries like Dan Flavin and Frank Stella, all installed as it was when he died in 1994. Judd first moved into the Soho space in 1968, and continued to use it even when he started to spend time in Marfa in the 1970s. Along with the art are artifacts from his Spring Street entertaining, including an industrial meat-slicer and Baccarat glasses. The Judd Foundation, which manages his Marfa site, oversees the studio in the cast-iron loft building, with weekly guided visits that can be booked online.

Chaim Gross

526 LaGuardia Place, Greenwich Village, Manhattan

The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation in Greenwich Village (photo by Jooltman/Wikimedia)
The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation in Greenwich Village (photo by Jooltman/Wikimedia)

It’s easy to walk by the elaborate gate at 526 LaGuardia Place and miss the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, but it’s worth a visit to see the studio of the late modernist sculptor Chaim Gross. His tools for his direct carving technique are on view alongside his figurative pieces in wood, bronze, and stone, all illuminated by a huge skylight.

The four-story Greenwich Village home also holds the Gross’s impressive art collection, with traditional African and Oceanic objects, as well as contemporary work by artists like Max Ernst and Willem de Kooning, and rotating exhibitions. The Foundation is open 1pm to 5pm on Thursdays and Fridays, as well as by appointment. Off hours, you can view a nearby example of his sculpture with the 1979 “The Family” bronze at Bleecker and West 11th Street.

Alice Austen

2 Hylan Boulevard, Shore Acres, Staten Island

Alice Austen House
The Alice Austen House on Staten Island (photo by Elisa Rolle/Wikimedia)

With its harbor views and sprawling gardens, the Alice Austen House on Staten Island is the most picturesque historic artist studio in New York City, and is an important museum to a pioneering woman photographer. From the 1880s until her death in 1952, Alice Austen took thousands of photographs of New York life, capturing the emergence of new technology like the bicycle on the streets, and immigrants arriving through Ellis Island. Austen also photographed her circle of friends, including her partner Gertrude Tate, at this 18th-century cottage nicknamed Clear Comfort.

The house contains her darkroom and galleries with rotating photography exhibitions, its gardens today cultivated to resemble their appearance in her photographs (though the well where she once washed her prints is now filled in). The nonprofit space is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am to 5pm, and by appointment in January and February.

Charles Ives

633 West 155th Street, Washington Heights, Manhattan

The studio of Charles Ives reconstructed at the New York Academy of Arts and Letters (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
The studio of Charles Ives reconstructed at the New York Academy of Arts and Letters (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

While not an artist, the studio of influential composer Charles Ives opened to the public in the galleries of the Academy of Arts and Letters in March 2014 (as covered on Hyperallergic). Around 3,000 objects from the Redding, Connecticut, home where Ives lived until his death in 1954 were carefully arranged based on archival photographs. His reconstructed work space has a cane hooked on his piano chair, bookshelves crowded with volumes and photographs, and a light box view of his rolling green yard. The permanent recreation is open during exhibition hours, and by appointment.

Eva Hesse

134 Bowery #4S, Bowery, Manhattan

Lomex Gallery, the former studio of Eva Hesse (courtesy Elliot Kaufman/Lomex)
Lomex Gallery, with the exhibition ‘A Wasteland,’ in the former studio of Eva Hesse (courtesy Elliot Kaufman/Lomex)

Eva Hesse worked for much of her short, striking, sculpture career in a small studio at 134 Bowery. The space is now Lomex Gallery. As Nate Freeman reported for ArtNews, Hesse experimented there with her eclectic materials from 1963 until she died from a brain tumor at the age of 34 in 1970.

Many portraits of the artist show her in the shadows of its sloping ceiling, which is still recognizable among the white walls of the gallery opened last year by Alexander Shulan. It was named “Lomex” for the failed Lower Manhattan Expressway proposed by Robert Moses, which would have cut through the neighborhood. Along with the hooks in the ceilings where Hesse once suspended her sculptures, the gallery maintains the spirit of the neighborhood’s history.

Frank Stella

126 East 13th Street, East Village, Manhattan

The Peridance Capezio Dance Center in the former East Village studio of Frank Stella (photo by Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia)
The Peridance Capezio Center in the former East Village studio of Frank Stella (photo by Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia)

You might have to take a dance class to get the full experience of Frank Stella’s former studio at 126 East 13th Street in the East Village. The distinct barn-like brick building was built in 1904 as a market for horses and carriages, and the painter used its large rooms with exposed brick as a painting studio from 1978 to 2005 (you can still see his canvas supports on the walls).

Since 2010, the Peridance Capezio Center has used it for their classes. In January, the Real Deal reported that the building, along with Stella’s former home behind it on East 12th Street, were both sold for $22 million. Capezio has a lease until 2028, but like so many artist spaces in the city, Stella’s former studio may have changes on the horizon.

UPDATE:

John A. Noble

1000 Richmond Terrace # 8, Staten Island

John A. Noble's Houseboat Studio (courtesy the Noble Maritime Collection)
John A. Noble’s Houseboat Studio (courtesy the Noble Maritime Collection)

A comment by Joelle Morrison on this post alerted us to the houseboat studio of John A. Noble on Staten Island, and it’s so lovely as to warrant an update. Docked at the Noble Maritime Collection at Snug Harbor, the studio is where the marine artist worked on his drawings, paintings and lithographs. A restoration completed in 2002 returned it to its 1954 appearance, when Noble fashioned it from an abandoned yacht interior and secured it on a wooden barge. Noble worked for four decades on the North Shore, and nicknamed his floating workspace his “own little leaking Monticello.”

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