Explore Float



10. SoHo
25. The Wall

Who the *$&% Is Jackson Pollock?

Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock? is a documentary following a woman named Teri Horton, a 73-year-old former long-haul truck driver from California, who purchased a painting from a thrift shop for $5, only later to find out that it may be a Jackson Pollock painting; she had no clue at the time who Jackson Pollock was, hence the name of the film.

The Village Gate Sign

The Village Gate nightclub closed in 1993, but its sign still remains on the corner of Thompson and Bleecker Streets. When Art D’Lugoff opened the club in 1958, it served as a performance space for artists like Nina Simone, Miles Davis, and Billie Holiday. It was also where Aretha Franklin made her first New York appearance.


Reference Links

internal gDoc TBC
internal Wikipedia

Bohemorama 2001

by Vicki Khuzami

Bohemorama is a mural by illustrator Vicki Khuzami. The acrylic canvas work in LaGuardia Place is an homage to the famous bohemian artists, writers, and musicians who called the Greenwich Village home. The piece includes images of Edgar Allan Poe, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Miles Davis, Allen Ginsberg, and Mark Twain, among others.

Khuzami began her career restoring 19th century paintings, and after a few years began illustrating book covers. In 1993, she and a group of artists designed new murals for Washington DC’s Capitol Building. She has designed murals for the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the US House of Representatives, Disneyland Tokyo, and Bloomingdale’s.


Reference Links

internal gDoc TBC
internal CultureNow article
internal Artist bio
internal Artist website

Manifest Destiny 1986

by Carl Andre, September 13, 1935

Manifest Destiny is a stack of bricks imprinted with the words “Empire” by Minimalist artist Carl Andre. About his work, which is incredibly meticulous, precise and stark Andre has said there no ideas hidden hidden, they simply are what you see. This mystery and beauty gives his work its  magical draw.

Washington Square Village


Reference Links

internal gDoc

Talking Points

S.J. Kessler and Sons, landscaping and gardens by Sasaki, Walker, and Associates

Pop Rocks

1975 was not only a revolutionary time in the culinary world because of Food in SoHo, but also for the invention of the iconic treat, Pop Rocks. Anyone who lived through the 1970s and 1980s remembers the carbonated candy that fizzes in the mouth. The novel idea was patented by General Foods in 1957, although it wasn’t made available publicly until 1975. The candy saw some tough times when rumors abounded about the fatal dangers of mixing Pop Rocks with Coca Cola, and parents had to be assured that their children’s stomachs would not explode. It was pulled from the shelves in the 1980s due to declining popularity but eventually had a resurgence and continues to be sold today.

Vertical Kilometer 1977

by Walter De Maria, 1935-2013

The Vertical Earth Kilometer is one of a series of four pieces created in the 1970s by artist Walter De Maria. A one-kilometer brass rod was fitted into the ground in Kassel, Germany, with only one end of the two-inch diameter rod flush to the surface and visible. The work asks for viewers’ trust by telling us that the piece extends one full kilometer into the earth, and—along with its sister piece here in Soho, Broken Kilometer—encourages us to question what we think we know about distance.



1977 Walter De Maria installs Vertical Kilometer in Kassel, Germany

Reference Links

link Atlas Obscura - Vertical Kilometer
internal Walter De Maria - Wiki
internal gDoc

Walter De Maria

by Walter De Maria, 1935-2013

Walter De Maria was an American artist known for his minimal and conceptual art and his use of landscape in his works. Originally from California, De Maria moved to New York in his mid-twenties 1960, where he started using geometric shapes and manufactured materials in his works, many of which are huge installations filling rooms and fields. His most well known series consists of The Lightning Field, The Vertical Kilometer, The Broken Kilometer, and The Earth Room. The Lightning Field is a one mile by one kilometer grid of metal posts in New Mexico that brings manmade materials outdoors, while The Earth Room is an apartment full of dirt here in Soho that blurs the lines between inside and outside.

De Maria lived and worked in his home, an abandoned Con-Ed substation-turned-studio on 421 East 6th Street in the East Village from 1980 until his death in 2013.



1960 Walter De Maria moves to New York
2013 Walter De Maria dies

Tony Goldman 2012

by Tony Goldman, 1943-2012

Tony Goldman was a real estate developer whose buildings and love of the arts helped shaped the Soho we know today. Goldman eschewed the term “developer” in favor of describing himself as a long-term investor. He believed not just in building, but in revitalizing neighborhoods. In the mid-to-late-1970s, at a time when Soho was a run-down place that most developers overlooked, Goldman saw the potential of its large, open, industrial spaces that were transformed by artists into livable lofts.

Goldman Properties is responsible for many buildings in New York, including 25 Bond Street and the commissioned Ken Hiratsuka work in front it. They also commissioned the Francoise Schein piece, Subway Map Floating on a NY Sidewalk, in front of their offices at 110 Greene Street.

He passed away in 2012 at the age of 68, and today his daughter runs Goldman Properties. Between New York and Miami, where most of their projects are, they continue to promote the ideas of urban revitalization and public art.


Talking Points

  • first to recognize soho lofts as to how people would want to live
  • biggest real estate owner in soho
  • quirky guy: bought a cafe with stage to perform himself, separated and remarried from college sweetheart
  • According to his NY Times obituary http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/nyregion/tony-goldman-real-estate-visionary-dies-at-68.html?_r=0
    • his wife said he was “a crooner” and liked to sing at the cafe.
    • “He would stay late and bring his uncle a Scotch,” Ms. Goldman recalled, “and they would talk real estate, and that’s where he got his foundation in the business.”
    • Goldman bought and renovated 18 buildings in SoHo
  • unusual developer: interested in preserving the stories and original character
  • but also adding to the stories with art, big supporter of the arts


Soho is one of New York’s most famous neighborhoods, taking its name from its position SOuth of HOuston Street (pronounced “How-ston”) and north of Canal Street. Today it is known as a shopping district, but the area has a rich history that led to the abundance of art we’ll see on this tour.

Soho’s modern history started in the 1600s, when the land was given to freed slaves and remained farmland for more than a century. During this time, the main water source for the city was the Collect Pond, which, by the early 1800s, had become polluted and unusable. The pond was drained via a canal, which later was filled and became the namesake street.

By the mid-1800s, the area’s population was growing. Cast iron buildings started sprouting up. Lord & Taylor and Tiffany & Company had stores on Broadway, and the neighborhood became a center of shopping, entertainment, and theater. However, as brothels started to move in, residents moved uptown. The invention of cast iron construction allowed for taller, stronger buildings with larger windows and open floor plans, which was the perfect setting for industry to bloom. Soon the textile industry had taken over what had been a bustling social neighborhood.

That era lasted until the mid-1950s when textiles moved to the South and oversees. By the mid-1900s, the area was industrial wasteland during the day with empty, desolate streets at night. Its nickname was “Hell’s Hundred Acres.” Things started to change in the 1960s when artists discovered the huge, empty industrial lofts that could serve as both homes and studios. While the living conditions were frequently less than ideal, the rents were low, and soon the artistic community was thriving. In 1973, the area was declared the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District. This recognition limited construction on empty lots until 2005, when the restriction was lifted and the neighborhood once again became known for its well located, high-end residences.

The art and architecture of Soho tell the story of this exciting and changing neighborhood—if you know where to look. So let’s get started with our first stop!


Talking Points

  • 1600s Rolling hills, farmland, freed slave settlement, countryside retreat
  • 1800s Elegant neighborhood
  • 1810 Collect Pond is drained — Canal Street
  • 1840 Cast Iron Buildings, upper class moves uptown, middle class comes in
    Cast Iron as Architectural innovation: taller buildings with larger windows and less interrupted space, great for manufacturing, predecessors to the skyscraper
  • 1859 Brothels, Theaters, middle class
  • 1880 After Civil war textile industry moves in
  • 1900s Decline: Economic Downturn
  • 1945 After WWII textile industry moves to south & overseas
  • 1960s Industrial Wasteland, Artists move in
  • Dangerous, makeshift, deserted
  • 1966 Lower Manhattan Expressway proposed
  • Think about: the transformation of a plot of land in just a few hundred years, or just in two decades, from abandoned to luxurious – and what provoked/made these changes

Robert Moses

by Robert Moses, 1888-1981

Robert Moses was an influential and contentious urban planner. He helped secure the construction of the UN offices in New York City, the Silver Towers were part of his urban renewal program, and he was crucial to building bridges and other important—if often controversial—infrastructure projects throughout the city. However, his legacy is more about his desires to build expressways over public transportation and make the city more car-friendly than people-friendly. His most famous project was the Lower Manhattan Expressway, which would have carved a 10-lane highway through Soho, Little Italy, and Greenwich Village, all but destroying most of the cast iron buildings which are now landmarked. Jane Jacobs was an advocate who opposed many of Moses’ ideas. Thanks to her grassroots organization the expressway was doomed, and the decline of Moses’ career had started. With fiscally irresponsible decisions made about the World’s Fair, and a campaign against the free Shakespeare in the Park series, confidence in Moses’ competence was on the decline. He died in 1981, at the age of 92, and his legacy—the good and the bad—shape the city today.



1941 Lower Manhattan Expressway idea conceived by Moses
1962 Lower Manhattan Expressway plan cancelled due to widespread community opposition

Moon Museum 1969

by Frosty Myers, 1941

The Moon Museum was the brainchild of Frosty Myers, whom we know from The Wall. It is a tiny ceramic wafer, three-quarters of an inch by half an inch, that contains drawings by six artists, including Andy Warhol and Frosty himself. Frosty wanted to create the first museum in space by securing this small—but art-filled—piece somewhere in the 1969 Apollo 12 mission. NASA wasn’t responsive to Frosty’s proposal, but he was able to find an engineer who supported the idea and smuggled the wafer onto the lander module and would therefore be left on the moon. Two days before takeoff, Frosty received a telex (which was like a text message back in 1969) with the message “All systems go,” which was code for success. It remains the first and only museum in space.


Talking Points

  • 1969
  • Forrest ‘Frosty’ Myers thought that if the US makes it to the moon there ought to be a museum
  • tried to get in touch with NASA, no response
  • found engineer in upstate, agreed to smuggle a small ceramic chip on board
  • Chamberlain, Navros, Oldenburg, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Myers
  • receives telex: “all systems go”
  • PBS History Detectives episode on the plates

Manatus Map 1639

by Johannes Vingboons, 1616-1670

Created in 1639, the Manatus Map is the earliest known drawing of New York City. The full name, “Manatus Gelegen op de Noot Rivier,” or “Manatus located on the North River,” refers to the Dutch name for what is known today as the Hudson River. The map shows many individual farms and plantations, as well as both Conyne and Staten Eylandts. Exactly who drew it is still a mystery, but historians think it was likely the cartographer for the Prince of Nassau for the West India Company of Holland, Johannes Vingboons, or cartographer Joan Vinckeboons. Currently the map is housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.


1639 Johannes Vingboons draws Manatus Map

Jane Jacobs


Jane Jacobs was an American-Canadian journalist whose theories on urban studies and activism helped shape the New York we know today. Born in Pennsylvania in 1916, Jacobs moved to New York in the 1930s and fell in love with Greenwich Village. When Robert Moses tried to build his Lower Manhattan Expressway through the Village and Soho in the 1960s, Jacobs was one of the most vocal opponents, organizing grassroots efforts to oppose the eventually dismantled project. Jacobs passed away in 2006, but her legacy through both her written works, such as “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” and her ideas continue to shape urban planning.



1961 Jacobs publishes the Death and Life of Great American Cities
1968 Jacobs moves to Toronto
2009 More Jane Jacobs, Less Mark Jacobs campaign founded

Gordon-Matta Clark

by Gordon Matta-Clark, 1943-1978

Gordon Matta-Clark was an artist whose media ranged from buildings to photographs to food. He was well known in the 1970s for co-founding Food with Carol Gooden, a restaurant in Soho, which at the time was a shabby, run-down factory area. The restaurant became an enclave for artists, and Matta-Clark frequently cooked dishes that blurred the line between art and dining. His artistic pieces also mixed food and traditional art, such as frying Polaroids in oil with gold leaf. Matta-Clark’s efforts helped establish the Soho art community, and his work often used the abandoned buildings of his surroundings. He would find buildings that were scheduled to be destroyed and then carve out pieces of them, which he called “anarchitecture.” In one instance, he carved away pieces of a neglected pier for two months without notice. When the city found out, they sued him, but the lawsuit was dropped. Matta-Clark died of cancer at the young age of 35.


1968 Matta-Clark graduates from Cornell University's architecture school
1971 Matta-Clark founds Food with Carol Gooden
1973 Matta-Clark stops managing Food

Haughwout Building 1857

by J.P. Gaynor, unknown

In 1857, Eder V. Haughwout’s Fashionable Emporium was built at the corner of Broadway and Broome Streets. Haughwout (pronounced “HOW-out”) was a successful merchant who sold china, chandeliers, silverware, and other commodities to those who could afford such goods. He had famous clients, including the Czar of Russia and Mary Todd Lincoln, who bought the White House china here. Gifts from Haughwout’s were presented to heads of state, such as the Emperor of Japan and the King of Siam.

The Haughwout building was almost lost in the 1960s when Chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, Robert Moses, wanted to raze it as part of the plan for the notorious Lower Manhattan Expressway. This is hard to imagine today as the building has two key features that give it an important role as a predecessor to today’s skyscrapers.

The first is that it housed the first functional passenger elevator, which was installed by Elisha Otis in 1857. Peter Cooper actually beat Haughwout to the installing the first elevator shaft four years earlier at the Cooper Union, but Haughwout’s was the first to have the actual elevator. It was powered by a steam-engine in the basement and moved at 0.67 feet per second, quite a bit slower than the 8 feet per second most elevators today travel. The building was hardly tall enough to justify an elevator, but Haughwout felt it would be an attraction to bring people into the shop. That’s 18th century marketing.

The second interesting architectural feature is the use of cast iron. While the material was common in buildings around that time, most buildings had only one street-facing facade. Since Haughwout built his on a corner, there was concern that the structure would not be strong enough to hold the weight of two cast iron facades. In order to solve this, the architects didn’t hang the facades off the brickwork in the standard way. Instead, they used a structural metal frame to support the building, which was a precursor to the steel-framed skyscrapers we see today.

What was once E.V. Haughwout’s Fashionable Emporium is now a lofty office building with shops at street level. It’s history is unnoticeable—there’s no mark of Mrs. Lincoln or the groundbreaking cast iron frame. The elevator has been updated, and you wonder if the people who ride it each day know about its significance.



1857 Haughwout Building Completed
1861 Mary Todd Lincoln purchases china from Haughwout's Emporium for the White House
1965 Designed a NYC Landmark
1973 Added to National Register of Historic Places

Cast Iron Facade Mural 1975

by Richard Haas, 1936

You might do a double take as you get to the corner of Prince and Greene Streets when you see Richard Haas’ mural. 112 Prince has a traditional cast iron facade on the front and a replica of the facade along the side of the building. Known for his trompe l’oeil—French for “deceives the eye”—Haas painted this mural in 1975, blending the two real windows into the design and adding details like shadows, air conditioners, and even a sleeping cat.

Haas had wanted to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Frank Lloyd Wright, to become an architect, but decided in college to study art instead. When he moved from the midwest to New York in 1968, he rented a loft on the Bowery and started drawing buildings and supported himself by commuting weekly to Vermont for a teaching job. In the 1970s, nonprofit City Walls was commissioning murals by abstract artists, and Haas submitted his idea for a realistic image. He chose this wall, originally constructed in 1889, which had boasted painted advertisements in the past.

Haas’ works have been commissioned all over the United States. There are many here in New York City, including the power substation at the Seaport, which is painted to show a cutaway of the Brooklyn Bridge. In Chicago, he painted a residential building that has occasionally fooled people with its realism when they request an apartment with a bay window, only to discover the windows are a trick of the eye.

Some of Haas’ pieces have deteriorated or been destroyed by weather, vandalism, or buildings being razed. And unfortunately the demand for wall murals has practically vanished. Advertisements have reconquered the city, bigger and brighter and more lucrative. Trickery is still at play but of a different kind. There is something wonderful, however, about fooling the eye, pointing out the less obvious and making us consider our perceptual limitations.



1975 Richard Haas completes cast iron mural

Donald Judd’s Studio

by Donald Judd, 1948-1994

Donald Judd, an artist known for his large, permanent installations, bought 101 Spring Street to serve as his home and studio in 1968. He was a proponent of the idea of permanent installations and disliked that most museums and galleries rotated exhibits. To Judd, a piece of art could change as the environment, light, or political climate fluctuated. He wanted viewers to experience his art over an extended period of time to gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the pieces.

With such a contemplative doctrine, it may not come as a surprise that Judd studied both philosophy and art history while at Columbia University. He supported himself writing criticisms for art magazines before becoming one of the first artists to be supported by the Dia Foundation.

Judd bought this entire building for just $68,000 (the equivalent of $464,000 today) and lived here with his family, raising two children and renovating the interior over the years. When he died in 1994, the building became the headquarters of the Judd Foundation. It is set up as a museum in Judd’s taste: showing around 200 pieces of art and 1,800 household objects on permanent display. Very little has changed, and, in fact, It is the only cast iron building in Soho that remains both intact and single-use. It is open to the public through tours that can be booked via the Judd Foundation website.



1968 Judd moves into 101 Spring
2008 Restoration of 101 Spring begins
2013 101 Spring Street reopened

Reference Links

article The Guggenheim: About the Artist
link Judd Foundation
internal Donald Judd
internal The Restoration
internal gDoc

Talking Points

Point this out at the corner of Prince and Wooster. Corner of 101 Spring Street visible from there.

  • 101 Spring Street bought in 1968 for $70k (today: $500k)
  • residence and studio of Donald Judd
  • one of the first artists supported by Dia foundation
  • intersted in the effect and modificaiton of space
  • did not agree with the museum and gallery method of changing exhibitions, he wanted to experience a piece over an extended time to have a deeper  understanding of it
  • even though the piece might not change and there was always change: change of light, change of meaning over time
  • Donald Judd
  • think about: space as a medium, that understanding a piece can be a long if not infinite process and that your understanding of it can change over time, even if the piece and the space don’t change

4th Floor (Parlor): Painting by Frank Stella was exchanged with Philipp Johnson for Sculpture at Glass House

Dia Foundation

Food Restaurant 1971

by Gordon Matta-Clark, 1943-1978

The Soho of the 1960s and 1970s was not the Soho we know today: it was gritty and rough and not a desirable place to live. With its seedy, industrial lofts with shared—or often nonexistent—facilities, the low rents, and “anything goes” attitude, it became a haven for artists. However, even as people moved into the area it was still dirty and dangerous. There weren’t many places to get the basics, including food, as it was an industrial district lacking restaurants.

Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Gooden changed that when they opened Food in 1971. It was a community restaurant staffed by artists, with rotating menus and innovative ideas. It offered a seasonal menu, open kitchen, guest chefs, and even sushi—long before any of those ideas became trendy.

Matta-Clark came from a family of artists. He studied architecture at Cornell, and his work often consisted of “building cuts” where he would remove sections from the structures of abandoned buildings, carving holes in the floor or removing walls. His environment was his canvas, so as a cook his meals became art pieces. He was known for some rather funky creations, such as the whole fish he gelled in black aspic and then jiggled for diners, making it appear as though the fish was swimming. He once hosted a bone dinner that consisted of frog legs, oxtail, and other bony items. At the end of the evening, the leftover bones were washed and strung on necklaces for guests to wear as a souvenir.

Food was started more as a community hub than as a restaurant venture. It earned a good review by Milton Glaser in New York Magazine and became popular even outside of the art community, but the owners gave it up it after only three years in business. Matta-Clark died only a few years later in 1978 at 35 years old from pancreatic cancer, two years after his twin brother committed suicide.

It’s fair to say that Matta-Clark and Girouard’s idea was ahead of its time. Some of the tenets that made Food so unique are currently in the culinary spotlight: we see food as art in our social media and high-end restaurants, we see experimentation and exchange of ideas in culinary startups and incubators, and we see community restaurants that provide jobs to the underprivileged. Today the Food building houses a clothing store with no trace of the old restaurant that was once a hub to the artistic community.



1971 Food Restaurant opens
1974 Carol Gooden and Matta-Clark sell the restaurant

Talking Points

  • started in 1971 by group of artists including Gordon Matta-Clark & Carol Gooden
  • important cornerstone of the soho artist community
  • restaurant & hub as there was nothing around
  • many ideas that seem trivial today but were groundbreaking
  • open plan kitchen where you could watch food being prepared, every chair was different, affordable home style meals, seasonal veggies, guest chefs
  • Gordon used to cook a meat dish and ask diners to clean off the bone as he would string it up and return it as a necklace
  • think about: the importance of a community, a safe haven to meet, exchange and experiment.

Gordon Matta-Clark

  • interested in space, large scale installations, deconstruction
  • cut shapes, holes in condemned buildings, take apart buildings
  • again probably not possible anywhere else other than nyc in that time
  • Wikipedia
  • think about: taking found art to another level, having the viewer reconsider their living environment, the spaces they carve out in their homes, and the hidden spaces that a city is filled with

Pop Rocks

  • invented in 1975
  • in an effort to offer you a treat of experimental flavour and to take you back to that time

Broadway Sidewalk 1984

by Ken Hiratsuka, 1959

Look down and you’ll see one of Ken Hiratsuka’s pieces etched into the sidewalk. The maze-like carvings at the corner of Prince and Broadway started part of a guerilla art movement he called One Line Sculptures that works its way through natural stones and public sites across the globe. Together, all the pieces around the world reduce the earth to one huge rock. All the works are fluid and free—part of the dichotomy of working on rocks. The only rules are that each piece is created from one line, and that the line never crosses itself.

The piece at Prince and Broadway holds a special place in the series because it was the first one. It was done covertly over many nights, with one eye on the art and the other looking out for the law. As Ken explained to us, the piece almost wasn’t completed. One night his friend, Toyo Tsuchiya, came with him to shoot photos of the process when suddenly they noticed a light flashing in front of them. The police had driven up the one-way street the wrong way and caught them by surprise. Ken told us:

“I dropped the hammer and chisel and rubbed the powdery white surface of the granite sidewalk with my hands. I looked at the police woman and smiled, saying hello. She smiled back to me and looked down the unfinished carving on the sidewalk from her driver’s seat of the police car. She did not say a thing. She turned around and left me and my photographer on the sidewalk. I could not believe it. Magical relief flooded me, and my shoulders lightened… I went back some more times to the sidewalk and finally finished the carving on that corner 1984 October. It took me one year to finish this corner.”

The line between art and vandalism is often blurred, and this piece—which started as sidewalk graffiti—is now a landmark in the neighborhood. Each day, it is changed by the wearing of thousands of people stepping over it, snow melting into it, sun lightening it, and other environmental factors.

Ken has other pieces from the One Line series in the area, each evoking unique imagery, such as Keith Haring’s cartoonish outlines or prehistoric cave drawings. A few pieces were commissioned by Tony Goldman of Goldman Properties, like the large carving in front of 25 Bond that is often described as wavelike, perhaps due to the oceanic curves of the building across the street. As Ken says, “I want to inspire people to become more conscious of nature and our common humanity… In my art there are no social, economic, cultural or political distinctions. We are all one.”



1984 Ken Hiratsuka finishes sculpting sidewalk art on Prince & Broadway

Talking Points

  • hard to find information about this piece, found the photo, emailed Ken
  • the story from Ken: created over several months, ken scared of being discovered worked at night, one night with photographer friend, police car drives up, Ken tries to downplay, officer simply smiles and drives off
  • police car coming other direction
  • 1 year to complete
  • Ken’s story: wanted to escape the rigid Japanese art system and came to New York
  • idea of the continuous line: deeper experience of life, conscious of nature, we are all one
  • think about: vandalism, the unnoticed splendor/stories of nyc

Silver Towers & Bust of Sylvette 1967

by Carl Nësjar & Pablo Picasso, 1920 & 1881-1973

As we cross Houston Street, the neighborhood changes from the frenetic pace of Soho—with its ornamental cast iron buildings—to the academic campus of New York University and these three giant, undecorative concrete structures, called the Silver Towers. The towers, their landscaping, and the Picasso sculpture they enclose are known as University Village and were designed and commissioned in the 1960s by I. M. Pei, who later went on to become most famous for the glass pyramid of the Louvre in Paris.

I.M. Pei created the Silver Towers in a style that became knows as brutalism, which some find harsh and others appreciate for its functionality. Brutalist buildings tend to use exposed concrete and modular elements, and the functions of the buildings are often expressed on the exterior rather than hidden behind a facade. They were popular in the 1950s through the 1970s for government and institutional buildings because they tend to communicate strength and functionality. The Silver Towers were originally planned as student housing, but as part of the purchase deal NYU was required to designate one of the buildings for subsidized housing.

Pei himself requested the Picasso sculpture in the middle, called Bust of Sylvette. After the developer of another project he was working on vetoed having a sculpture there, Pei decided to put it here instead—a fitting choice since the piece uses the same concrete materials as the buildings but in a much more fluid, artistic way. Coincidentally, the project that rejected the sculpture was in the Kips Bay area of Manhattan, where Peter Cooper’s glue and cement factory once stood.

Sylvette was one of Picasso’s many muses throughout his career. She was 19 years old when they met, with a tall, bouncing blonde ponytail that caught Picasso’s attention. Their relationship of artist and muse was only platonic, which was unusual for Picasso, and it lasted only a few months. However, it was a prolific time in Picasso’s career, and he produced more than 60 Sylvette-based pieces of various media in the short time. The pieces were exhibited in Paris in the summer of 1954 to rave reviews, inspiring Life magazine to call the era Picasso’s “Ponytail Period.”

Norwegian sculptor Carl Nesjär worked with Picasso to create the Bust of Sylvette, which is based on one of Picasso’s much smaller, folded sheet metal sculptures. Picasso assisted Nesjär with the sculpture, but he never visited the space where it sits today. Here we call it a Picasso because that is what New York University etched into the plaque, but Sylvette inspired it, I. M. Pei decided to install it, and Nesjär made it—which raises questions about where inspiration starts, what defines an “original,” and the politics of who deserves credit.

We at ArtWalk have varying opinions about this piece: some feel it is a true Picasso, while others consider it a piece inspired by Picasso but ultimately call it a Nesjär.



1949 Housing act signed
1967 Constructed by Carl Nësjar, Silver Towers open
2008 Designated a National Historic Landmark

Talking Points

  • Designed by IM Pei
  • brutalist architectural style
  • NYU made deal with city: 2 nyu buildings, 1 subsidized housing
  • IM Pei fused Frank Lloyd Wright organic architecture with simplicity of Mies van der Rohe
  • Sylvette and Picasso met in the south of France
  • She was engaged to a furniture maker Picasso knew, and she became his muse
  • Sylvette’s name is Lydia Corbett, she is also an artist
  • Sylvette’s ponytail inspired the 1960 via picasso’s show in paris
  • Exhibtion called “Sylvette, Sylvette, Sylvette: Picasso and the Model” in 2014


using the same materials with so different effects, the fuzzy border between original, inspiration, and copy


Developer have significant impact on the city, next up we’ll look at another developer who had a very different point if view.


Robert Moses & Jane Jacobs
Haughwout Building
Cast Iron Facade Mural



Jackson Pollock’s Apartment 1934

by Jackson, 1912 - 1956

Today 76 West Houston is a condominium, but the famous street has have witnessed one of the most well known and controversial artists of the twentieth century. Jackson Pollock moved here with one of his brothers in 1934. The apartment they moved into above a lumber yard was unheated and ran only cold water. At the time, Pollock made his living as a janitor at a nearby school and as ”Stone Cutter” for the Emergency Relief Bureau, an organization created by the Hoover administration to get people back to work. More lofty sounding than it was, his job as a stone cutter was in fact to clean and maintain the statues in public parks – one of those being the statue of Peter Cooper at Cooper Square.

He stayed in this apartment for only about a year, living in different homes throughout the 1930s and early 1940s while he studied art and continued painting. Pollock eventually worked for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project, which supported artists such Mark Rothko, José Clemente Orozco, and Willem de Kooning.

In the early 1940s, Peggy Guggenheim took notice of Pollock’s art and commissioned him to make an 8-foot tall by 20-foot long mural for the entryway of her townhouse. This led to Guggenheim’s patronage of Pollock, which allowed him to paint full time. Then a 1950 spread in Life Magazine catapulted Pollock to fame. Although he was securely established as an artist, the sudden fame caused critics to question Pollock’s authenticity to the point that he himself started to have doubts. Always a troubled man and heavy drinker, Pollock’s marriage unraveled in 1956, and that August he died in a one-car alcohol-fueled accident, killing himself and a fellow passenger.

Pollock explained his art by saying it represented his “inside world.” He said if viewers wanted to see real objects, they could look at them; his art, on the other hand, was motion and energy. His works often have a sense of immediacy, as though they are a direct translation from thought or feeling to paint without the burden of perfection—an appropriate interpretation for art painted in a city that constantly moves with energy.



1930 Pollock moves to New York
1934 Pollock moves to 76 W Houston, an unheated apartment above a lumberyard
1935 NYC Emergency Relief Bureau hires Pollock to restore public monuments
1943 Pollock earns solo show run by Peggy Guggenheim
1945 Pollock moves out of New York but still paints full time

Talking Points

  • in 1934 Jackson Pollock moved back to New York and moves into an unheated lumber yard
  • Great Depression
  • works as janitor for a school and stone cutter for the Emergency Relief Bureau, cleaning the statues in the park, including Peter Cooper statue
  • think about: Houston Street in 1934 and Pollock’s drip paintings

Oldest New York Manhole 1842

by Croton Distributing Reservoir, 1842-1899

While strolling through busy Soho, it’s easy to overlook tiny Jersey Street, a little trafficked side road that takes us back in time. And on this street, it’s even easier to miss a small artifact that embodies a vital part of New York City history and its growth: at the southern end of the Puck Building—which was a printing plant for more than a century and turned out publications such as New York Press, Spy Monthly, and Puck Magazine—almost hidden under modern asphalt, is New York City’s oldest manhole.

The manhole cover reads “Croton Aqueduct” and “1866” – that’s not the serial number, but the year – which was before boroughs were created. After the introduction of the five boroughs in 1898, manholes in Manhattan were imprinted with “MANHATTANBOR,” and a few of those can still be spotted as well.

Today we think of manholes as leading to our sewage system, but this one has the word “aqueduct.” In fact, it led to New York City’s fresh water supply. After the Collect Pond was drained in 1810, a new source of water was needed, so the Croton Aqueduct was built. Completed in 1842, it supplied New Yorkers with drinking water from the Croton River, 41 miles to the north. The aqueduct brought water into a reservoir on 42nd Street, through which it was distributed to the city. The reservoir was surrounded by 50-foot (15-meter) walls that were 25 feet (7.6 meters) thick. These walls offered space for public promenades on the top, and Edgar Allen Poe was one of many city residents who could frequently be seen strolling along them.

In the 1840s, New York City’s population was just over 312,000. Within just 50 years, the city had ballooned to more than a million people, outgrowing the reservoir. A dam was built on the Croton River, making the reservoir obsolete. It was torn down in the 1890s, and in its place now stands the research branch of New York Public Library and Bryant Park.

It’s fascinating to think about the change, the people and the ideas that shaped New York in these brief 200 years. In a city of extreme impermanence, as we experience it today with its inhabitants rushing and shoving, it’s comforting to know that some ideas persisted. Not only did the ideas persist but the actual work, objects, sculptures, and buildings are still here today to tell us the stories of the past.



1842 Water starts flowing into New York from Croton River
1899 Croton reservoir demolished

Talking Points

  • 1866
  • one of the oldest manholes in New York City
  • Collect Pond drained, new fresh water source: Croton River and Croton Aqueduct
  • water reservoir on 42nd Street
  • dam on Croton river, no need for reservoir, demolition
  • construction of Bryant Park and New York Public Library

Bayard Condict Building 1899

by Louis Sullivan, 1856-1924

In a city famous for high-rises, it’s surprising that the man known as the “father of the skyscraper” constructed only one building here. The 13-storey Bayard Condict Building is humble by today’s standards, but during its construction in 1897, Louis Sullivan was known for creating some of the tallest buildings in the world.

The Bayard Condict Building, commissioned by United Loan and Investment and named for one of New York’s prominent families, is an important one both in Sullivan’s career and in the history of New York City. Sullivan moved away from the old standards of architecture at the time, creating one of the first steel skeleton framed buildings and covering the masonry with detailed terra cotta reliefs, an architectural innovation at the time that allowed for intricate facades to be mass produced. The vertical columns that are accentuated on the facade emphasize the height, and the higher-than-usual ratio of window to structure was a harbinger of today’s fully glass facades.

Unfortunately for Sullivan, stepping away from the norms of the times caused the Department of Buildings to raise many objections. Plans were adjusted many times, even throughout construction, before the building was completed in 1899. Ownership had transferred three times within just a few years, resulting in the name changing from The Bayard Building to The Condict Building and then back again to its original moniker.

101 years later, in 2000, the building was restored by WASA/Studio A, a New York-based architecture and engineering firm. During the restoration, each of the 7,000 glazed architectural terra cotta tiles was inspected, and only 30 were found to be damaged beyond repair.

Sullivan’s legacy included not only the skyscraper, but also a well known credo still used throughout the design world today: “Form ever follows function,” which we know more familiarly as “form follows function.” Although his contributions are widely respected now, in his lifetime his innovative ideas and architectural business frequently struggled. When he died a penniless alcoholic in 1924, it was his more famous protege, Frank Lloyd Wright, who paid for his funeral.



1897 Construction begins
1899 Construction finishes, building opens
2000 Restoration overseen by WASA/Studio A

Talking Points

  • 1899
  • Architectural Innovation: Terra Cotta Facade
  • Chicago Archittural style
  • Louis Sullivan

The Wall 1973

by Forrest "Frosty" Myers, 1941

It’s hard to miss The Wall, an 8-storey high facade at 599 Broadway overlooking Houston Street to its north. The bright blue wall supports 42 green aluminum bars bolted to steel braces, looking like an army of plastic army ships at sea or a large, predictable Plinko board.

This piece is also known as The Gateway to Soho, and it was created by Forrest “Frosty” Myers first in 1973, and then again 24 years later. He first made it for a small commission of $2,000 from City Walls, Inc., a group of artists that transformed several blank facades into artworks throughout the 1970s.

While the group is no longer around, much of their art still exists—but it’s not always easy to keep it up, both financially and literally on the wall. This piece was almost lost in 1997 when the building’s owners complained to the Landmarks Preservation Commission that the artwork had caused leaks and structural damage to the building. After a lengthy legal battle, a compromise was reached: the art would be removed during the renovation of the building, then reinstalled 30’ higher so the bottom of the wall could be used for advertising space.

This compromise made sense. Back when the work was originally created, City Walls, Inc. simply asked the building owner for permission. Soho was a different area in the 1970s, and nowadays it would be nearly impossible to convince a Soho building owner to sacrifice advertising space in one of the world’s most famous neighborhoods for art.

Although many of Frosty’s sculptures are large, one of his most intriguing works is tiny: the “Moon Museum” is a ¾ inch x ½ inch ceramic tile initiated by Frosty and containing a drawing by him, Andy Warhol, and each of four other artists. Rumor has it the piece was sneaked into the Apollo 12 space mission of 1969 and left on the moon, creating the first “museum” in space.



1973 Installed
1997 Owners of 599 Broadway file complaint with city over artwork
2002 Removed for building repairs
2004 City sued 599 Broadway owners to replace artwork
2007 Re-installed

Talking Points

  • huge piece, mega visible, lots of people walk by still don’t see it
  • made possible with a grant from City Walls Inc, $3000
  • building damaged, landlord city dispute, compromise
  • removed, fix and reinstalled, higher up to allow for advertising that pays for upkeep
  • things to think about
    • a reflection of the sky
    • extension of the buildings
    • an organized heaven, up above the streets
    • a different kind of grid

Subway Map Floating on a New York Sidewalk 1986

by Francoise Schein, 1953

“Subway Map Floating on a NY Sidewalk” by Francoise Schein intertwines the past and the present in its circuitous depiction of Manhattan subways. Prior to the city taking over transit in the 1940s, the lines were run by private companies. Transit history buffs are familiar with Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), which built what we currently know as the 1,2,3 and 4,5,6 routes. Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit (BMT) covered parts of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, including what we know today as the L. And the Independent Subway (IND) came along in the 1920s and built what we now know as the A/C and B/D routes running along 8th and 6th Avenues, respectively.

In this piece, Francoise blends aspects of all of these networks with today’s system to produce a map that—while not useful to the average straphanger—contains a history of the city hidden in each of its stainless steel bars and illuminated glass circles.

Additionally, her works all carry a theme of human rights. This one, commissioned in 1985 by Tony Goldman of Goldman Properties and spanning 90 feet x 12 feet, represents that the subway is the ultimate democratic place to reach the people. Following this work, Francoise went on to create a piece for the Concorde station in Paris that contains the entire text of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man on tiles around the interior.

She even founded a nonprofit that creates art and events around Europe to start discussions on human rights principles and cultural diversity. As she explains: “I have come to see cities and villages as living beings who tell stories of the lives that have crossed through and in them, thereby leaving indelible marks on the successive strata of the city’s foundations. My projects pay homage to that reality.”



1986 Installed by Francoise Schein

Talking Points

  • commissioned by Tony Goldman with a $30k grant
  • not a map to be used to navigate the city, artistic liberties
  • Schein interested in the intersection of urban society
  • Place de la Concorde station in Paris: tiles with letters that spell out the declaration of human rights
  • think about
    • vertical living, horizontal transportation & the intersection of the two
    • transportation as vains of a city
    • crossing and meeting places of people

Ken Rock Sculpture

  • ken japanese artist, continuous line, carved into rocks
  • came to new york to escape the rigid japanese art system
  • more on ken next

The Broken Kilometer 1979

by Walter De Maria, 1935–2013

Hidden at 393 West Broadway is a piece that many New Yorkers don’t even know exists. It’s an installation by Walter De Maria that takes up an entire loft and has been maintained by the Dia Foundation since 1979. It consists of 500 meticulously aligned brass rods, each two meters long, adding up to one complete kilometer in length.

De Maria is known for his minimalist art, usually made of simple geometric shapes often produced by industrially manufactured materials. Another seminal piece of his is The Lightning Field, a one kilometer by one mile grid of 400 stainless steel poles in New Mexico. The Broken Kilometer and Lightning Field are two pieces of a four-part series of large installations. The other two are The Earth Room in Soho and the Vertical Earth Kilometer in Kassel, Germany. The Vertical Earth Kilometer is a sister to this piece and consists of a similar solid brass rod extending one kilometer into the earth, the only visible part being one end that is flush with the ground.

Rarely explaining his work, De Maria’s art uses shapes and concepts that we see and use every day, like distance or soil, but he rarely explained his intentions behind his work. He wanted the viewer to read and understand the shapes as a visual language. The element of trust is also very important in his work as it requires the viewer to buy into his ideas, almost participate and have us reflect on all the other things we trust on a daily basis without thinking about.

While the shapes and textures seem basic, a closer look shows more contrast in his overall sense of the art experience. For instance, he was also a musician, playing music that could be considered must less restrained than his art. He was in a few bands, most notably The Primitives, which later became rock band The Velvet Underground in the post-De Maria years.

DeMaria continued to create installations around the world until he passed away in 2013, leaving us to wonder about his unchanging works and their meanings in an ever moving world.

Note that The Broken Kilometer is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12pm-6pm (closed 3:00-3:30pm). It is also closed through the summer from mid-June through mid-September. Admission is free.


Reference Links

tidbit Walter De Maria
sight The Earth Room
internal Walter De Maria
link Thirty Years of Eternity
internal Walter DeMaria - Wiki
internal gDoc

Talking Points

  • 1977
  • Hidden in bustling Soho is a room with one of De Maria’s minimalist works
  • 500 brass rods, each 2 meters long, together they make up 1km
  • visually looks evenly spaced, in fact every piece 5mm further apart than preceding and lifted on stilts from the 3rd column.
  • think about: precision, human connection, mystery, trust

Vertical Kilometer

  • Sister piece in kassel germany
  • cement slab with top of brass rod visible
  • goes into the earth for 1km

Walter De Maria

  • shy, didnt give many intervies or explain his work, watched a lot of tv
  • wanted the work to speak for itself and stand on its own
  • lived in Power Substation on E 6th Street
  • died at 77 from stroke, while visiting mother for 100th birthday
  • think about: why artits dont talk about their work? mystery? there isnt anything to say about – only to look at? they chose the visual medium purposefully


  • Lets look at another piece of walters
  • and on the way there understand a little more about this community that was forming in soho

The Earth Room 1977

by Walter De Maria, October 1, 1935 – July 25, 2013

In the middle of the modern, manmade neighborhood of Soho, a residential building hides something rarely—if ever—found indoors. As you enter the building and start up the stairs to the second floor, the smell of damp soil infuses the air. The Earth Room, an installation at 141 Wooster created by Walter De Maria in 1977, is an apartment full of knee-high natural earth.

The nature-inspired work is striking to see in the middle of our concrete jungle. De Maria was very particular about the color of the earth, and the dirt you see today has not been replaced—it’s the same earth that he selected in 1977. Earth is vital to life, yet it’s easy to live a life free of mud and dirt in a city as concrete as New York. The Earth Room asks us to question how nature fits into our lives. Do we find it comforting to see the outdoors inside, or is it confusing? In a world where we take our shoes off to enter a house, the Earth Room reverses our expectations.

This piece is one of four in a series of large installations by De Maria. Another of the four, The Broken Kilometer, can be seen a short walk away at 393 West Broadway and consists of 50 two-meter rods carefully arranged to represent the title of the piece. The Vertical Earth Kilometer, a kilometer-long rod dug into the ground, is in Kassel, Germany. And Lightning Field, in New Mexico, is a one kilometer by one mile grid with poles pointing skyward.

This Earth Room is the only one of three Earth Rooms made by De Maria that is still in existence. The 280,000 pounds of dirt (127,000 kilograms) required structural reinforcements in the building, and it is maintained by the Dia Foundation. They ensure the soil is raked and watered weekly to keep it looking as fresh as it was upon installation.

Note that The Earth Room is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12pm-6pm (closed 3:00-3:30pm). It is also closed through the summer from mid-June through mid-September. Admission is free.



1977 Earth Room Installed
1977 Jimmy Carter becomes president

Talking Points

  • 1977
  • first exhibited in Munich in 1968, gallery filled with earth, opening reception happened in front of gallery
  • DeMaria particular about the color of earth, gets racked and watered once a week to keep original look
  • think about: the importance to earth in our lives but how we have banished it—especially in new york where there is so much cement, the mixing up of inside and outside