Since the 1970s, the storefront at 367 7th Avenue in Park Slope has been shuttered. In January of 2014, the whole building was on the market, asking $3,499,000.
It turns out the building belonged to a reclusive artist, Leo J. Bates, who used the retail space as his studio, a story in The New York Times over the weekend revealed. The neighborhood changed dramatically over the decades, but still the space remained locked.
What was the space used for? Why would the landlord never rent it?
Bates was once part of the art scene in SoHo in the late 1960s. But after a decade of hard work with little recognition, he sold off many of his geometric paintings, bought the Park Slope building for $45,000 and retreated from the art world. However, he didn’t stop painting.
Inside the storefront he spent decades making paintings of overlapping geometric patters using vibrant colors. He dated each canvas and made slides. For a while, according to the article, he photographed each brushstroke on his canvases, making stop-motion films of each painting’s creation.
The storefront is 20 feet wide and dived in half. Bates used the portion facing 7th Avenue. The back room had a desk and shelves for storage.
Bates eventually bought two more buildings on the block; according to the story, he was known as a bit of a cranky (and politically conservative) landlord. He also refused to tear up the blue stone sidewalk as the city requested. After he died, his wife moved all the artwork to the couple’s Connecticut home.
Bates died in 2013 and his wife put the building up for sale. It was a House of the Day in January of 2014.
At the time, we noticed in two vintage stoves in the studio space, one a rare 1930s Art Deco-Cubist Magic Chef. The building sold in April of 2014 for $3,000,000.
An Italian restaurant called Hugo and Sons will be opening in the storefront. No word on what happened to the stoves.
Brooklyn used to be dotted with these lost and forgotten time capsules, but they are becoming fewer and fewer as gentrification and development reach every corner.
A Brooklyn Storefront Hid an Artist’s Decades of Work [NY Times] GMAP
House of the Day: 367 7th Avenue [Brownstoner]
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark