Preserving Bohemian Soho - Judd Foundation

“Art and architecture—all the arts—do not have to exist in isolation, as they do now. This fault is very much a key to the present society. Architecture is nearly gone, but it, art, all the arts, in fact all parts of society, have to be rejoined, and joined more than they have ever been.” 

–Donald Judd, 1986

The beautiful historic five-story building at the corner of Spring at Mercer is not just the only remaining preserved single-use building from the era of the SoHo Historic Cast-Iron District, but was also the New York home, studio, and now foundation headquarters of artist Donald Judd. The artist originally bought this cast-iron building in 1968 to join the then-pioneering community of artists who were moving to the industrial spaces, attracted to their cavernous ceilings and cheap prices. Judd, along with this rising population of artists, lived and worked in Soho (then still called The Cast Iron District) illegally until zoning laws were changed in 1971. In the 1970s, Judd felt that the area had become too saturated, so he bought property in Marfa, Texas, and would split his time each month between 101 Spring and Marfa until his death in 1994.

At 101 Spring Street, Judd developed his “permanent installation” concept. In the vein of Frank Lloyd Wright’s all- encompassing belief that he needed to design the exterior, interior and furnishings of his home to exact his vision, Judd believed that the placement of art works, furniture and decor were linked- arranging them all to create one cohesive art experience. Judd cataloged and discussed his installation at 101 Spring Street in an essay in 1989, and after his death in 1994, his two children went to great lengths to preserve their father’s legacy. Judd’s children raised funds to repair the crumbling exterior of the building and get the interior up to code, while following Judd’s strict aesthetic specifics.

Opened to the public in 2013, the Judd Foundation gives visitors a glimpse into the Bohemian Soho artist life that seems impossible amongst the designer shops and commercial storefronts in Soho. Tours, by appointment only, are lead by highly trained artists, and take visitors throughout the live and work floors Judd inhabited, as well as his own art collection which includes work by Dan Flavin, Frank Stella and Claes Oldenburg. The ground floor of the building, lined by a corner of windows, features rotating exhibitions of artists from Judd’s era, curated by his son Flavin Judd.

Words by Lori Zimmer

Photo Credit: Charlie Rubin-Judd Foundation Archives | Image © Judd Foundation

Licensed by ARS