Artists' SoHo: 49 Episodes of Intimate History

Artists' SoHo: 49 Episodes of Intimate History

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Artists' SoHo: 49 Episodes of Intimate History
    Book Description:

    How a little-known industrial neighborhood in New York unintentionally became a nexus of creative activity for a brief burst of time. During the 1960s and 1970s in New York City, young artists exploited an industrial wasteland to create spacious studios where they lived and worked, redefining the Manhattan area just south of Houston Street. Its use fueled not by city planning schemes but by word-of-mouth recommendations, the area soon grew to become a world-class center for artistic creation indeed, the largest urban artists' colony ever in America--let alone the world. Richard Kostelanetz's Artists' SoHo not only examines why the artists came and how they accomplished what they did but also delves into the lives and works of some of the most creative personalities who lived there during that period, including Nam June Paik, Robert Wilson, Meredith Monk, Richard Foreman, Hannah Wilke, George Macuinas, and Alan Suicide. Gallerists followed the artists in fashioning themselves, their homes, their buildings, and even their streets into transiently prominent exhibition and performance spaces. SoHo pioneer Richard Kostelanetz's extensively researched intimate history is framed within a personal memoir that unearths myriad perspectives: social and cultural history, the changing rules for residency and ownership, the ethos of the community, the physical layouts of the lofts, the types of art produced, venues that opened and closed, the daily rhythm, and the gradual invasion of "new people." Artists' SoHo also explores how and why this fertile bohemia couldn't last forever. As wealthier people paid higher prices, galleries left, younger artists settled elsewhere, and the neighborhood became a "SoHo Mall" of trendy stores and restaurants. Compelling and often humorous, Artists' SoHo provides an analysis of a remarkable neighborhood that transformed the art and culture of New York City over the past five decades.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6285-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Richard Kostelanetz
  4. Illustration
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. I
    (pp. 1-4)

    What I experienced in Artists’ SoHo was a cultural hothouse unlike anything anywhere else or any community before in American life. I’d already known about bucolic “artist colonies,” to be sure, but this was an urban oasis created not by a dozen or two artists but by hundreds, if not more, acting independently. As most of us got to know everyone in our buildings as well as many neighbors, SoHo eventually came to feel more like a one-industry town or a residential university campus than a typical urban neighborhood. Working the majority of our waking time on our art(s) we...

  6. II
    (pp. 5-14)

    When I came back to New York City from college more than fifty years ago, the area below Houston Street was an industrial slum that I might have walked through reluctantly on the way from Greenwich Village on its northwest to Chinatown to its southeast. Industrial debris littered streets that were clogged with trucks and truckers during the working daytimes but deserted at night. A few years before, Houston Street had been widened, destroying the structures fronting on the southside, leaving behind the unsightly sides of the chopped-off industrial buildings. On these walls several stories high were painted large advertisements;...

  7. III
    (pp. 15-31)

    Prior to the development of Artists’ SoHo, many ambitious American artists preferred to live in “artist colonies,” as they were called, where a dozen or two painters typically, customarily colleagues already, purchased empty land and constructed studios. They favored sparsely populated retreats, such as Fire Island, Provincetown, or Woodstock; and established within those communities they established a culture more sympathetic to art and artists than could be found elsewhere in America. These artist colonies differed crucially from bohemias, which were communities, usually within an urban setting, hospitable to counter-bourgeois living, so that, say, the living room doubled as a bedroom...

  8. IV
    (pp. 32-40)

    By the late 1960s, I began to visit SoHo more often. By 1968, the Per for mance Group, led by a professor new to New York University, had acquired a building on lower Wooster Street, a block and a half north of Canal. Recently housing large trucks, lacking interior walls, pillars, or stages, it was thus called the Performing Garage. In its cavernous space, originally a metal stamping factory and then perhaps a flatware factory, the company staged, among other works,Dionysius in ’69(1968). I saw it more than once, impressed not only with the performance but with the...

  9. V
    (pp. 41-45)

    Behind the creation of Artists’ SoHo were several unique factors. The first, noted before, was the availability of empty commercial/industrial space for a comparatively cheap price initially because nobody else wanted it and then because the city forbade non-artists from occupying it. Some artists purchased or rented more than they needed, sometimes dividing their space to get an adjacent space that would be rented or sublet. A few purchased as much as 10,000 square feet entirely for themselves, the artist Nancy Graves for one reportedly dividing her block-long single-floor into sculpture for one area, painting for a second, filmmaking for...

  10. VI
    (pp. 46-52)

    Our SoHo co-op was similar to others in most respects. Like many neighbors, we earned a tax abatement, called a J-51, for economically enhancing a blighted neighborhood, as indeed we did. Not unlike other devices to encourage the conversion of industrial slums into residential neighborhoods this financial leverage was later rescinded as socially unnecessary. Like other SoHo co-ops, we initially lacked the Certificate of Occupancy that is normally required in New York City before a newly constructed space, even a renovation, can be occupied. Only in 1977 did we fulfill all the picayune requirements necessary to make our residency fully...

  11. VII
    (pp. 53-56)

    As years passed, the principal division within SoHo itself, and within individual co-ops, was between the old residents and the newer people, especially after 1979–1980, when prices escalated so precipitously. On my north–south Wooster Street, the co-ops between Prince and Houston were established by artists between 1970 and 1976. Those on the west side of the next block south, Wooster Street between Spring and Prince, were established by a mid-sized commercial developer a few years afterward, costing potential owners at least several times as much per square foot than we paid. To the end of my time in...

  12. VIII
    (pp. 57-65)

    Of the three individuals who initiated artists’ SoHo, I knew best George Maciunas, an oddly charismatic figure—oddly I say, because his slight and underdressed physical presence along with his eccentric mannerisms were more disaffecting than reassuring, even to other artists, but more certainly to their lawyers, say. Born Yurgis Maciunas in Lithuania in 1931, his surname pronounced mah-CHEW-nus, he came to the United States after World War II, studied architecture first at Cooper Union and then at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, graduating from the latter in 1954. Returning to New York, he spent several years working toward a...

  13. IX
    (pp. 66-69)

    If earlier American bohemias were portrayed as rebelling against bourgeois America, the denizens of early SoHo were likewise differentiating themselves culturally, if not so pointedly. The key epithet in defining SoHo culture was “downtown,” which was meant to distinguish it from “uptown.” The latter epithet referred to everything north of Houston Street to some or north of Fourteenth Street or Twenty-third Street to others. From big things to small, downtown was different.

    Even certain words were used differently downtown. Early on, Stephen Koch noticed that when a SoHo artist spoke of “work,” he meant his art. A “job” is what...

  14. X
    (pp. 70-73)

    One of the few direct downtown challenges to uptown icons was a biannual series of artist-organized exhibitions occurring in the springs of 1977, 1979, 1981, and 1983, directly in response to the Whitney Biennial, an uptown survey of recent activity always regarded dubiously, continue though it still does. The Whitney Counterweight, as it was wittily christened by Bill Rabinovitch and Barnaby Ruhe, was a series of group exhibitions and performances in the smaller SoHo galleries located mostly on Grand Street, rather than on the West Broadway of Leo Castelli and OK Harris. Epitomizing the revolt of the underlings, which I...

  15. XI
    (pp. 74-81)

    SoHo galleries were small and large, new and old. Some filled ground floor spaces, welcoming strangers off the street; others were upstairs, catering more exclusively to those who knew in advance where art was publicly exhibited. A few buildings housed several galleries, making it convenient for artaficionados to “pop in and out” without ever going outside onto the street.

    Some of the galleries were physically large enough to exhibit two or more artists at the same time. At the final location of Ivan Karp’s OK Harris, which had nearly 11,000 square feet, the front of its four rooms worked best...

  16. XII
    (pp. 82-90)

    One of the initial crucial figures in establishing artists’ SoHo, Ivan Karp initially wanted to be a writer. He wrote criticism of art, dance, and movies for theVillage Voiceat its beginnings, in the mid-1950s. He published one novel,Doobie Doo,in 1965, while he was working uptown for the gallerist Leo Castelli, and he told me about drafting several more, one purportedly about a young woman we both admired. From time to time over the years I’ve known him, he’s asked me about finding publishers for these fiction manuscripts. In reply, I advised him to publish them himself,...

  17. XIII
    (pp. 91-94)

    If SoHo artists had patrons off ering a regular allowance, they didn’t say. I doubt if any did, because private support of talented individuals was no longer desirable to very wealthy people. They could boast of their collections or contributions to charity. The last example known to me of an artist to receive support for several years from a single person was a poet born in 1929, albeit through a foundation the poet created. A lucky few received regular sums from the gallery showing their works as a kind of advance against sales.

    Some artists had parents who purchased SoHo...

  18. XIV
    (pp. 95-99)

    The first important theater within SoHo proper was the Performing Garage at 33 Wooster Street. Thirty-six feet wide, perhaps forty-five feet deep, and at least seventeen feet high in its ground floor, with a large door fronting directly on the street, it had indeed been a functioning garage resembling other such street-level enterprises in the neighborhood (some of which later became art galleries and restaurants). Shares in the co-op that included the garage were purchased for $72,000 by a nonprofit entity called the Wooster Group, Inc., founded by Richard Schechner. An NYU professor, Schechner had recently come to New York...

  19. XV
    (pp. 100-102)

    The initial defining mark of modern dance in SoHo was the use of spaces not intended for performance. Much as the Performance Group had created their venue within a former factory, so choreographers used open lofts that left spectators to stand and sit as well as they could. A related move typical of the time was performing in outdoor spaces, as Twyla Tharp did in Central Park in 1969 or in SoHo itself. For the 1972 SoHo Arts Festival, the choreographer Marilyn Wood used street-fronting fire escapes for her “stage” in her SoHo Fire Escape Dance. (A photograph of this...

  20. XVI
    (pp. 103-107)

    Born in Holland in 1942, the bookseller Jaap Reitman came to America in the 1960s and worked in the bookstore of George Wittenborn, a German immigrant who became during World War II the most sophisticated Manhattan retailer of art books. Located uptown at 1018 Madison Avenue, just below Seventy-ninth Street, Wittenborn’s offerings complemented what ever galleries were exhibiting in his Upper East Side neighborhood. He also stocked art books, especially from Europe, that no one else had.

    Realizing in the early 1970s that SoHo needed a comparable store, Reitman located his, likewise eponymous, initially on the street level of 157...

  21. XVII
    (pp. 108-110)

    Though the commercial galleries made SoHo the center of the art world in the 1970s, the neighborhood also became the center for noncommercial art. The key institutions here were the Cooperative Gallery and the Alternative Space, both of which were established primarily to exhibit artists who were not currently represented and, in the second case, to give them opportunities to do what could not be done in their normal venues.

    Co-op galleries were invariably founded and run by artists, who paid all expenses for both their exhibitions and the gallery’s operations, beginning with the rental of semi-permanent space. Once a...

  22. XVIII
    (pp. 111-115)

    The Alternative Space, by contrast, was not a co-op but a nonprofit institution formed to serve groups of artists or genres of art that were not adequately included in the commercial galleries. In lieu of building anew or assuming exhibition galleries that already existed, these organizations, much in the Soho tradition, customarily renovated from scratch “raw” industrial loft spaces.

    The pioneer for precincts south of Houston Street was the 112 Workshop, commonly called 112 Greene Street after its street address. Founded by Jeffrey Lew, who had purchased the building previously housing a rag-salvaging business, the 112 Workshop was a ground...

  23. XIX
    (pp. 116-118)

    Some of the alternative spaces served kinds of art that were not being adequately serviced by the commercial spaces. For the increasingly influential genres of video art (as distinct from television) and of performance art (as distinct from dramatic theater), there was The Kitchen on the second floor of a magnificent building on the northwest corner of Broome and Wooster streets. Indeed, not only did The Kitchen present video screenings, it established an archive with nearly two hundred videotapes that could be viewed on the premises in a room made especially for that purpose. Eventually, The Kitchen issued a cata...

  24. XX
    (pp. 119-122)

    If Artists Space and even Exit Art served a large number of artists, the Dia Foundation, by contrast, favored only a few—indeed, a very select few—mostly extending the collecting designs of a French-Texan family named DeMenil (whose fortune is based upon the oil-services company Schlumberger). If most alternative spaces show unfamiliar artists whose works are unavailable elsewhere, Dia favors larger and more ambitious works unavailable elsewhere mostly by familiar artists. On West Broadway, Dia purchased at 393 a large ground-floor space solely to house permanently Walter de Maria’sThe Broken Kilometer, which has gold bars aligned in parallel...

  25. XXI
    (pp. 123-129)

    Recognizing in the early seventies that SoHo could become an art gallery for moves with esthetic resonance, a Turk named Tosun Bayrak, scarcely young at the time, did radical performance pieces—“actions” they could be called—whose audacity remains unrivaled. When his wife was evicted from a West Broadway building that was sold to a new owner, Bayrak embedded bags of bovine blood and entrails in the walls and ceiling of her loft and replastered them. Inviting people into the loft one Saturday afternoon, he chopped at the walls with an ax to “free” the gore, so to speak. White...

  26. XXII
    (pp. 130-136)

    The scale of SoHo’s loft spaces made them appropriate for music designed for audiences smaller than those in the standard musical concert venues of New York. When Robert Buecker in the 1970s founded the SoHo Baroque Opera Co. in his own upstairs loft-gallery on West Broadway, his initial mission was presenting forgotten operatic works from the late eighteenth century, drawing upon scores that Buecker unearthed himself. Among the operas he revived were Jean-Philippe Rameau’sLes Indes Galantes(1735), Georg Philipp Telemann’sDer Geduldige Sokrates(1721), Domenico Cimarosa’sLa Astuzie Femminili(1794), and Baldassare Galuppi’sIl Filosofo de Campagna(1754), most...

  27. XXIII
    (pp. 137-147)

    Richard Foreman I’ve known since we were teenagers, as he was three years ahead of me first in high school and then in college. Before I entered Brown University where he likewise preceded me, he advised me on which professors were best (and they were); fifteen years later, he encouraged me to move to SoHo where he had already gone. We’ve remained friendly for over five decades now, though he is notoriously nonsocial, perhaps because we choose not to be competitive (and have had to overcome comparable obstacles in our professional careers). One personal fact not often mentioned is that...

  28. XXIV
    (pp. 148-152)

    Meredith Monk has been a protean polyartist whose career at once precedes SoHo, exploits its opportunities, and yet reflects the hot house as she has worked in varying success in several media since the mid-1960s. I first saw her as a dancer just out of college, performing in a small East Village theater on St. Mark’s Place called The Bridge. About her dance Break (1964), I wrote to myself, “a moderately creative dance, with marvelously disjointed syntax; but I didn’t discern much coherence.” (Another dance on the same program by Kenneth King, yet younger and likewise just beginning, impressed me...

  29. XXV
    (pp. 153-157)

    If Richard Foreman has been a SoHo theater artist who mostly stayed home, Robert Wilson has taken its downtown NYC esthetics around the world. When I first met him around 1965, he seemed a tall gangly guy who was somewhat inarticulate and easily distracted. Having graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he did theatrical performances that are still remembered, Wilson soon afterward moved into a loft at 147 Spring Street (that had been previously occupied by the Open Theater, itself an artistic descendant of the Living Theatre). He lived there until it became an office for his foundation, moving...

  30. XXVI
    (pp. 158-160)

    Remembered as Arlene Butter by her high-school classmates, she took the name Hannah Wilke from her own middle name and the surname of a first husband long gone. Essentially a Jewish princess from Great Neck, with vocal intonations reflecting the less classy neighborhoods of Brooklyn, she transformed herself into an art-world star. I remember when I first met her early in 1969 as the current girlfriend of the sculptor Claes Oldenburg, then at the peak of his artistic career. As he was driving us home with Wilke beside him in the front seat, my date at the time commented on...

  31. XXVII
    (pp. 161-166)

    The great SoHo contribution to the practice of interior design was the residential habitation of open space in an industrial building. Isolated individuals may have done this before, but never had so many renovated so much so tastefully. SoHo artists led the way. Factory space was “gutted,” as we said, prior to reconstruction from within to the owner’s needs, usually to sizes much greater than those favored by commercial developers so eager to get the most profit from every inch. Opportunities were recognized in odd-sized spaces, such as lofts 200 by 25 feet, or 75 by 90, that were previously...

  32. XXVIII
    (pp. 167-169)

    There are three stories of photography in SoHo. One line involved artists trained in photography who published their work mostly in magazines and then books and incidentally exhibited. A second includes photographers who from their professional beginnings concentrated mostly on the creation of books, incidentally publishing in magazines and exhibiting in galleries. A third involved artists trained mostly in visual art who exhibited their work in galleries before all else.

    Representatives of the first line extended more artfully the traditional endeavors of journalistic photography, some of them using the large loft spaces available around SoHo to house their darkrooms beside...

  33. XXIX
    (pp. 170-173)

    Yet younger, Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) has frequently denied the appellation of “photographer” for herself, indicatively preferring to be known as an “artist who uses photography.” From the start of her precocious New York career in 1977, she exhibited large photographs devoid of writing, exclusively in art galleries, initially within a four-artist exhibition in 1978 at the publicly funded Artists Space, where she also worked at the front desk. When its executive director cofounded a new, for-profit SoHo gallery called Metro Pictures in 1980, Sherman was one of the first artists given her own show, in her case annually through...

  34. XXX
    (pp. 174-176)

    As an avant-garde arts community, SoHo was particularly hospitable to the media art forms that were new in the 1960s and 1970s: video, holography, and book-art (Artists’ Books), among others. I can recall that, once the portable video recorder became available around 1967, several adventurous artists, most of them trained mostly in visual arts, purchased them. Robert Whitman, then residing on Mulberry Street east of SoHo proper, used one for an outdoors performance piece that he produced in Long Island at that time.

    As Davidson Gigliotti remembers, most of the pioneering New York videomen lived not in SoHo but on...

  35. XXXI
    (pp. 177-180)

    The new art of holography, roughly three-dimensional photography, likewise publicly available for the first time in the mid-1960s, arrived in SoHo via Lloyd Cross, a Canadian, who established his studio in a sub-basement at the northwest corner of Prince and Mercer streets (for long afterward an abandoned factory building, now the site of the opulent Mercer Hotel). As holography at that time depended upon finding a floor devoid of vibrations (that would upset exposures that could take as long as a minute), Cross had to dig deep. “Visiting Lloyd was a little like visiting the mad scientist’s laboratory,” Davidson Gigliotti...

  36. XXXII
    (pp. 181-187)

    Although writing alone was not among the categories qualifying an artist for legal residence in SoHo proper, a good deal of literature was produced here, much of it obscurely published and barely known, even decades later. The distinctive characteristic of SoHo literature was its close relation, both stylistically and socially, to new ideas in the other arts. More precisely, SoHo writing was concerned, like other SoHo arts, with issues of minimalism and abstraction, of extreme fragmentation; with alternative scale and coherence, of patterning and difficulty; questions of nonart and anti-art, perceptual stretching, and the exploration of media other than one’s...

  37. XXXIII
    (pp. 188-195)

    Born in Korea in 1932, Nam June Paik (pronounced Pike, like the fish) went to high school in Hong Kong before studying music at universities in Japan and then in Germany, where his work earned early support from both John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen at a time when those two titans were more predisposed to agree than disagree. The latter, no pushover for enthusiasm for anyone other than himself, published this recollection of a Paik per for mance in the early 1960s:

    Paik came onto the stage in silence and shocked most of the audience by his actions as quick...

  38. XXXIV
    (pp. 196-198)

    Charles Ross was already established as a technologically sophisticated sculptor before he came to SoHo. With an undergraduate degree in mathematics before he took a master’s degree in sculpture, both from Berkeley in the early 1960s, he was the only visual artist I knew in the mid-1960s to readScientific Americanover a solo dinner in a restaurant. His initial specialty was optical effects, initially with clear liquid-filled prisms, often large, that refracted light in surprising ways. Especially in arrays, these sculptures were quite spectacular. When exposed to natural sunlight, the rich spectrum of refracted light would change continuously in...

  39. XXXV
    (pp. 199-202)

    One measure of the vitality of a cultural community has always been the number and quality of publications originating within it, as distinct from those started by outsiders trying to capitalize on the prominence of a moniker. For instance,The Village Voicewas a newsprint weekly founded in the mid-1950s by people residing within Greenwich Village, initially to provide their neighborhood with cultural information and intelligence about their community. (Eventually, it also became a national newspaper.)The SoHo Weekly News, by contrast, was founded in 1973 by an outsider named Michael Goldstein, a sometime rock concert promoter, in part to...

  40. XXXVI
    (pp. 203-204)

    Born in Germany in 1940 and immigrating to the United States when she was nineteen, Hanne Tierney came to SoHo in the early 1970s as a mother of two kids and wife of a mathematics professor. The permission to reside in SoHo—the family’s artist’s certification—came from her work, not his. Children were so rare in SoHo at the time that truck divers often invited her young son to ride in their high cabs.

    Her art began with children’s books published both in America and German-speaking Switzerland. Thinking about “three-dimensional storytelling, when the viewer could see in one full...

  41. XXXVII
    (pp. 205-206)

    In the history of New York City culture, there have been fertile locations, sometimes a single building or a pair of buildings, other times a single street, in which several important cultural professionals happened to reside at a certain time. Fifty-one West Tenth Street was such a building in the late nineteenth century; so were the Strunsky apartments opposite the southwest corner of Washington Square in the 1930s. Around 1950 perhaps half of the most prominent African-Americans in New York City resided at either 409 or 555 Edgecombe Avenue high in north Harlem’s Sugar Hill. Several famous Columbia professors resided...

    (pp. 207-210)

    Childlike though artists, especially unmarried artists, tend to be, real children were scarce in Artists’ Soho, at least at the beginning, as most couples weren’t married and those that were legally hitched were too devoted to their careers or too poor to think about having kids. There were no children residing in my building until the 1990s. Lacking children to befriend other children, I got to know artists’ kids through their parents. The art writer Daniel Pinchbeck (b. 1966), whose mother edited a book of mine when he was an infant, wrote about the “enormous cavern” into which his family...

  43. XXXIX
    (pp. 211-216)

    The idea of SoHo as an artists’ hot house first entered general consciousness in newspaper reports about art exhibitions and then in slick magazine articles usually featuring loft interiors before they appeared in films. The bibliography to Seeman and Siegfried’sSoHo(1978) mentionsNew York Timesarticles by its art reporter Grace Glueck in 1969 and 1970 and then two in 1971.Lifemagazine, then more prominent than later, had a five-page spread titled “Living Big in a Loft” in its issue of 27 March 1970. “Behind these grubby façades lurks an artists’ colony,” gushed the anonymous writer. “Sixteen-foot ceilings,...

  44. XL
    (pp. 217-223)

    Sonic Youth is the classic name of a pop-music group that began in 1981 in SoHo’s outer precincts defined by the clubs Max’s Kansas City on lower Park Avenue and CBGBs on the upper Bowery (which in the 1980s was by geographical definition north of the flea-bag dormitories). Its founders were the young guitarist Thurston Moore, who also sang, and his wife-to-be Kim Gordon, who played bass and guitar and sang. Moore had previously participated in other groups; Gordon, an art school graduate a few years older, had befriended such downtown artists as Dan Graham and Jenny Holzer. After early...

  45. XLI
    (pp. 224-227)

    As Jaap Reitman epitomized traditional book-selling in SoHo, Steve Dalachinsky and Harry Nudel have represented since 1976 the activity of alternative peddling on the rent-free sidewalks, usually on Spring Street between Wooster and Greene, across from Jaap Reitman’s terminal location. With only a table and merchandise kept in his apartment a few blocks away, Dalachinsky for more than a quarter-century displayed a selective stock of records, beat literature, and his own books. Beside him often, especially on weekends, was Harry Nudel, PhD, a truer antiquariat, as the Germans would say, who keeps his stock of quality literature in his nearby...

  46. XLII
    (pp. 228-230)

    Though SoHo in its prime as an artists’ colony did not attract political radicals, the industrial slum that preceded SoHo was a no man’s land briefly providing refuge to the Students for a Demo cratic Society. As Steve Tappis remembers it:

    In the late spring of 1968, right after the student strike at Columbia University, New York Regional SDS was evicted from its offices on Union Square West. After a few weeks in a new office we were again evicted. We found out that the FBI and the New York City Red Squad pressured the landlords to get rid of...

  47. XLIII
    (pp. 231-233)

    The lawyer Jerald Ordover began to represent visual artists in the early 1960s. Some were recommended to him by Ivan Karp, a childhood friend, at the time still working for Leo Castelli. As happened to good lawyers in the days before they could advertise, some clients recommended others, including Edward Avedisian, John Chamberlain, Frank Stella, Barbara Rose, and, in 1965, Castelli himself. Meanwhile, when the proprietors of CAMI Hall uptown wanted to cancel the cellist Charlotte Moorman’s contract for her 1966 avant-garde festival, she called on Jerry, as he was commonly called, for help. As he interceded successfully, the concerts...

  48. XLIV
    (pp. 234-236)

    SoHo, simply SoHo, is the name of a commercial novel published in 1981 by Doubleday, a publisher whose confidence about establishing bestsellers is based upon a century of experience. SoHo’s author, C. L. Byrd, is identified not within the book itself but only on the dustjacket flap as “the pseudonym of two writers closely involved with the New York art world.” Two years later a paperback edition appeared from Bantam, which was also skilled at selling thousands of books. I didn’t notice either of these editions when they first appeared, and neither did anyone I know, as SoHo was published...

  49. XLV
    (pp. 237-242)

    Soon after the sometime industrial area just south of Houston Street became known as SoHo, the neighborhood southwest of it became known as Tribeca, Triangle Below Canal Street, with Broadway to the east, the Hudson River to the west, and Chambers Street on its south. Though Tribeca superficially resembles SoHo as a residentially renovated industrial neighborhood, it is actually a different community open not just to artists but nonartists as well. Tribeca differs physically as well: While most SoHo buildings were 25 feet wide, those in Tribeca were typically fifty feet or more in width.

    If the SoHo buildings housed...

  50. XLVI
    (pp. 243-249)

    My SoHo loft became famous for a day in 1985, when it appeared at the top of the front page of the widely readNew York Times’s Thursday “Home” section. Accompanying a feature article on “Living with Too Many Books” was a photograph of me sitting beneath towering shelves tightly filled with paperbacks. Whereas most features in theTimesare forgotten a few days afterward, this has often been remembered, mostly by those likewise possessing an abundance of books, especially if they had, like myself, discovered that an urban residence with ceilings eleven feet high could accommodate thousands of books...

  51. XLVII
    (pp. 250-258)

    It seems in retrospect that from the moment I moved into SoHo, back in 1974, Artists’ SoHo was threatened. One early sign was the arrival soon afterward of restaurants and gourmet food stores whose wares were aimed primarily not at the neighborhood but at B&T folk. “When tourists began to appear on Saturdays (and later by the busload even during the week), it was clear that SoHo’s fate was no longer in the hands of the original artists’ community,” Lucy R. Lippard wrote in 1976. I recall becoming viscerally upset every time a new store opened that was catering not...

  52. XLVIII
    (pp. 259-262)

    Having written a book about the rise and fall of Artists’ SoHo, I’m often asked to locate the next major artists’ neighborhood in New York City. The question is not only which areas offer larger spaces for lower rents or purchase prices but which attract young pioneers whom others will follow? For certain people this is, as Harold Rosenberg discerned, “a problem of the first order.”

    Some identify the northern precincts of Williamsburg, around the Bedford Avenue stop on the L-train, just across the East River from Manhattan. As this neighborhood was an urban frontier some fifteen years ago, most...

  53. XLIX Bibliographies
    (pp. 263-272)

    Books about artists’ hot houses are remarkably few. Caroline Ware’sGreenwich Village, 1920–1930(1935, twice reprinted, as recently as 1994) is a sociological study of a downtown Manhattan community that writers and artists made world-famous. Given a sociological academic bias, it devotes much less attention to the artists, dubbed “The Villagers,” than to the ethnic groups there. In SoHo, as noted before, there were no ethnic groups, let alone any other residents, before the artists came. Also see Ross Wetzsteon’sRepublic of Dreams Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910–1960(2002), Luther S. Harris’sAround Washington Square(2003), and...