28 november 2014

Bryant Park Studios

Bryant Park Studiobuilding, 2013. (bron: Ephemeral New York)

Bryant Park Studios, 80 West 40th Street. (bron: Béhance)

"Artists have always had a tough time finding bright, generous, inexpensive studio and exhibition space in New York. So in the flourishing city of the late 19th century—with the population bursting and Manhattan filling up in every direction—studio buildings that were specifically designed for artists began appearing.

One 12-story studio building constructed in 1900-1901 still stands on Sixth Avenue and 40th Street, at the southwest corner of the recently renamed Bryant Park (until the 1880s, it had been known as Reservoir Square).

The Bryant Park Studios Building is a lovely structure where Edward Steichen, Fernand Leger, Irving Penn, and other painters and sculptors took advantage of double-height windows and northern light.

Today, it’s hard to imagine traffic-choked midtown Manhattan as an artists’ neighborhood. But the light a century ago was uninterrupted, and new studio buildings had also gone up on West 57th Street—making it an “artistic center,” notes this 1988 Neighborhood Preservation Center report.

Who had the money to fund such a lovely building? A Paris-trained American artist named A.A. Anderson, who had married into wealth. He explained why he constructed the studio building in his autobiography, excerpted in the NPC report:
“My business friends said it was a foolish thing to erect so expensive a studio building in what was then the ‘Tenderloin District,'” he wrote. “‘But I wanted the best, since it is usually the best or the poorest who pays.'”

By the middle of the 20th century, the building was repurposed for fashion industry showrooms, though one artist hung on to space she had first occupied decades earlier and had it at least into the 1990s." (bron: Ephemeral New York)

"Streetscapes: Bryant Park Studios/Beaux Arts Building; Restoring the City's Oldest High-Rise Artists' Studios

FOR decades, the Bryant Park Studios building on the southeast corner of 40th Street and Sixth Avenue has had that gritty midtown look. But the owner has been carrying on a restoration for several years and soon will start cleaning the facade of this 1901 high-rise artists studio structure, the oldest of its kind to survive in New York.

The movement for common artists studios is usually considered to date to 1856, when the Tenth Street studios went up at 51 West 10th Street. But buildings put up for studios stayed low until 1879, when the seven-story Sherwood Studios went up at the southeast corner of 57th Street and Sixth Avenue. It was the first tall building for such a tenancy.

The Rev. Jared Flagg built his Rembrandt, a cooperative apartment/studio building at 154 West 57th Street, in 1881, but tall buildings with double-height studios did not reappear until the turn of the century. The well-known colony of such buildings on West 67th Street began in 1901, over a year after Abraham A. Anderson began his Bryant Park studios.

Anderson had studied art in Paris after the Civil War and founded the American Art Association there to help struggling Americans. His wife, the former Elizabeth Milbank, was the daughter of Jeremiah Milbank, a banker and a founder of the Borden Milk Company.

At Sixth Avenue and 40th Street Anderson found the ingredients that would become the formula for most later studio operations. The site was near the established elite area along Fifth Avenue. But it was devalued by an adjacent feature others considered a disadvantage, the Sixth Avenue El. It also had a critical asset for turn-of-the-century artists -- across Bryant Park flowed uninterrupted north light.

To take advantage of this, Anderson built a 12-story building with 24 north-facing double-height studios, just right for painters of big portraits and giant landscapes. The Beaux-Arts style building mixed elements of factory and hotel design; indeed the typical artist's studio was both a workshop and a place of residence.

The designer, Charles A. Rich, had worked on various Milbank charitable commissions, among them Barnard College's first building, Milbank Hall of 1896.

Anderson took the top floor as his own studio and period accounts describe the quintessential Victorian artist's lair. It was littered with such exotica as Spanish tapestries, Louis XV paneling, a suit of armor, a rock crystal fireplace, a Venetian doorway and a bathroom tiled with abalone shells.

AMONG the artists who took space were J.C. Leyendecker, Florine Stettheimer, Edward Steichen and Jo Davidson.

By the 1910's the structure was known as the Beaux-Arts Building, apparently after the cafe of the same name on the ground floor operated by the Bustanoby family.

In 1920, Anderson net-leased the building to a real estate operator but retained his own studio under a complicated leaseback agreement. In 1928, the 78-year-old artist fought eviction in court with the subsequent owner, a battle he ultimately won. He died in 1940.

The artistic tenancy of the Bryant Park Studio building gradually diminished as the structure was converted to straightforward loft and showroom use. In the last few years the owners, 80 West 40th Street Associates, have spent $4.5 million on the building, restoring the lobby ceiling, removing the window air- conditioners and repairing -- not replacing -- the copper window frames.

Robert Lieb, a general partner, says that the next work will be cleaning the terra cotta and salmon brick facade and removing the garish modern storefronts.

Oh yes, there is still one artist left: Dorothy Hart Drew, who moved in in 1959.

Mrs. Drew has Mr. Anderson's original studio -- with the abalone shell bathroom -- and, like Mr. Anderson, she has had some legal troubles. For several years she and the owner battled in court over whether her space was residential or commercial. Like Mr. Anderson, she won the case and expects to remain there indefinitely. (bron: The New York Times)

Bryant Park Studios, 80 West 40th Street, ca. 1975. (bron: Museum of the city of New York, foto's: Edmund V. Gillon)

The Bryant Park Studio Building, 1901. (bron: beyond the gilded age)

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