Step Into a Permanent Installation of “Specific Objects” at Donald Judd’s SoHo Home and Studio

Photo by kristenmcginnis

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    A visit to SoHo’s Judd Foundation is an immersion into the vision of one artist, Donald Judd, who lived and worked in one of the iconic cast-iron buildings in the days when artists were just moving into the then-derelict area.

    Many artists have called New York home, but museums of their homes and studios are a rarity here. Even more rare, this one is just as he left it.

    Judd purchased the five-story cast iron building at 101 Spring Street, at the corner of Mercer, in 1968. The building was to be not only a residence for Judd, choreographer Julie Finch and their two children, but a studio and installation laboratory. Opened to the public in 2013, the building is a modern artists’ home and studio, providing a glimpse into the life and ethos of Judd.

    "The easiest way to change the United States, and that’s still very difficult, is for citizens to act as citizens and use representative government. If the people don’t learn to be citizens, the slight improvements of a benevolent dictator don’t matter." - Donald Judd, "The Artist and Politics: a Symposium," 1970. Paul Katz of Donald Judd on the ground floor of 101 Spring Street.

    Judd started out as an artist working with more traditional styles of painting but by the early 1960s he had moved towards the abstract and minimalist. He also began working with three-dimensional forms, referring to them not as sculptures but as “specific objects.”

    In a 1989 essay, Judd wrote of his purchase of the building that his requirement was “the building be useful for living and working and more importantly, more definitely, be a space in which to install work of mine and others.” He changed little about the building, keeping the open spaces and deciding “each floor should have one purpose: sleeping, eating, working.”

    After his death in 1994, the Judd Foundation took on the project of restoring the building and the challenge of opening it as a museum while maintaining Judd’s vision. The goal of the interior restoration and interpretation was to present the site as it was in 1994.

    Personal effects, furniture and objects are installed and reflect Judd’s purposeful placement. He said about the space that “everything from the first was intended to be thoroughly considered and to be permanent.”

    “After the work itself, my effort for some eighteen years… has been to permanently install as much work as possible, as well as to install some by other artists. The main reason for this is to be able to live with the work and think about it, and also to see the work placed as it should be.” - Donald Judd, “On installation,” 1982. Image by Charlie Rubin of the 4th floor of 101 Spring Street and Frank Stella’s work, “Gur II” from 1967. #donaldjudd #101springstreet

    Visitors can also see works by other artists Judd incorporated into the space, including Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain, Frank Stella and Claes Oldenburg.

    Tours of the space, which sell out quickly, are led by artist guides. Groups are kept small to allow for navigating narrow staircases to the several floors open to the public. Guides explore Judd’s work as well as that of other artists shown.

    The ground floor, once a work space, is now a gallery, open for free to the public when special exhibits are mounted by the Judd Foundation. More of Judd’s installations can be viewed in Marfa, Texas, where he started purchasing properties in 1973.

    An afternoon in SoHo very well spent.

    How to Visit
    Address: 101 Spring Street, New York, N.Y.
    Hours: The ground floor is open to the public when temporary exhibitions are installed. Check the Judd Foundation website for details. The upper floors are accessible by guided tours only and tickets must be purchased in advanced. There are three tours a day Tuesday through Friday and four tours on Saturdays.
    Admission: $24 for adults, $11.50 for students and seniors. Children under 12 are not permitted on tours. If you are an artist living and working in New York City, free tours are available.
    Directions: Subway N or R to Prince Street, 6 to Spring Street, B, D, F or M to Broadway Lafayette.

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