The Manhattan building that once housed the studio and living quarters of late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has found a new tenant. Last week, actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie announced that she had secured 57 Great Jones Street, a two-story structure owned by Andy Warhol for 20 years, for a new creative endeavor platforming underrepresented fashion workers. With 6,600 square feet at her disposal, Jolie is working to create “a community of creativity and inspiration, regardless of socio-economic background” by providing resources and support to an international network of tailors through Atelier Jolie.
John Roesch and Garrett Kelly, the two Meridian Capital Group brokers who negotiated the deal, confirmed to Hyperallergic that Jolie signed an eight-year lease on the historic building that had been on the market for $60,000 a month since last November. Pop artist Andy Warhol bought 57 Great Jones Street, situated in Manhattan’s Noho neighborhood, in 1970 before leasing it to his close friend and fellow artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, in 1983. Basquiat both lived and made art in the space until his untimely death at age 27 in 1988.
Basquiat, a Brooklyn native of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, worked prolifically in the space as he continued to contest the boundaries between so-called “high art” and “low art” through his signature street art style that addressed themes of race, class, religion, and mortality. During the 1980s, Basquiat and Warhol shared a very close friendship, operating as collaborators, confidantes, and even creative competitors. Their friendship was widely publicized, but became fractured after their joint exhibition’s poor reception also yielded characterizations of Basquiat being “an art world mascot.” Though the two never formally reconciled, Warhol’s death in 1987 reportedly contributed to Basquiat’s downward spiral alongside his intense rise to fame and mistreatment as a Black man in the arts scene. Basquiat was found dead in the Noho apartment on August 12, 1988, from a heroin overdose.
In 2016, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation installed a plaque honoring Basquiat on the building’s exterior, which had long been tagged by graffiti artists paying tribute to the late visionary. Village Preservation’s Executive Director Andrew Berman described the building as “a uniquely significant part of New York City’s cultural heritage and landscape,” expressing pride in its landmark designation.
“It is our hope that this building will remain intact and in some way accessible to the public forever, in order to allow all who wish to the ability to appreciate its historic significance,” Berman told Hyperallergic.
The building’s first floor is home to an exclusive, invite-only Japanese restaurant called Bohemian. Neither Atelier Jolie nor the restaurant could be reached for inquiries.
Roesch told Hyperallergic that Meridian Retail Leasing negotiated the deal with Jolie for about six months. “We had a ton of offers from reputable operators, but her concept seemed best fit for the building and its history,” he said. Perhaps nodding to Basquiat’s reuse of existing materials for the surfaces of his work, Atelier Jolie pledged a commitment to sustainability through the use of “leftover, quality vintage material and deadstock,” focusing on the production of “quality heirloom garments with personal meaning.”
The news has yielded a mixed response on social media, with some locals lamenting the takeover of the historic building by a celebrity and others welcoming Jolie’s vision for the space. The Atelier will reportedly maintain the graffiti in honor of Basquiat’s early moves with fellow artist Al Diaz as the street art duo SAMO. Roesch noted that while the building has been whitewashed in the past, it was “immediately tagged back up.” Jolie “mentioned that she loved the street art and would potentially like to preserve it,” he concluded.