While galleries and alternative exhibition spaces abound in New York both in and out of the city, there’s nothing more intimate or contextual than viewing a work of art from within an artist’s home or studio. Below we profile a list of ten artists’ homes and studios that you can visit and tour in New York, both historical and contemporary, as unparalleled exhibition spaces that remain frozen in time, yet indefinitely relevant.
Pollock-Krasner Studio | Image courtesy of Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center
A National Historic Landmark, the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center dates back to 1879, and it was purchased by the artist couple in November 1945. Today, the house still contains all of the furnishings and objects that remained at the time of Lee Krasner’s death in 1984, and it displays works by both artists, as well as changing exhibitions by contemporary artists. Jackson Pollock had used the small barn adjacent to the house as his studio; the floor is still covered in paint from the process of his famous poured paintings, and Krasner used the barn as her studio after Pollock’s death in 1956. The house is open from May to October on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and it is a must-visit cultural site whether or not you’re an art aficionado.
For those who wish to spend the day in a bygone era, the Alice Austen House makes for a perfect getaway without even leaving the city. Alice Austen (1866–1952) was a Victorian street photographer who used her camera in then-experimental ways, shooting from moving train and sailboats to produce early action shots. Her home, Clear Comfort, dates back to 1690 and was transformed from a one-room farmhouse into a large country home by its various owners. Finally, it was purchased and renovated in 1844 by Austen’s grandfather. Seized from Austen in 1945 due to financial troubles, the house fell into disrepair until the 1960s, when a group of citizens raised funds for the house’s restoration (based on Austen’s photographs) and recognition as a historic site. The house is now preserved as a museum to display her work, and it is open to the public from Tuesdays to Sundays from March through December.
Manitoga was the home of industrial designer Russel Wright (1904–1976). The home was built in 1960 as an example of Organic Modern architecture, and the house and grounds explode with Wright’s vision and unique aesthetic, with over three miles of Wright-designed hiking trails open from dawn until dusk every day. The studio — now almost completely restored to its original state during Wright’s residency — is also open to the public. The house, studio, and landscape are all accessible from May through November via Manitoga’s public tours, so visitors can explore incredible views of the 30-foot waterfall, the quarry pool, and the perfectly-manicured landscape.
The Donald Judd House and Museum, 101 Spring Street, a five-story cast-iron building, designed in 1870. | Courtesy of Wiki Commons
Donald Judd (1928–1994), an American artist who is best associated with the Minimalist movement, bought a 19th century five-story, cast-iron building in New York City to use as his home and studio. The building is now the only cast-iron building remaining in SoHo, and it serves as one of the founding sites in the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios program for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The building preserves Judd’s vision for ‘permanent installation’ – a concept that puts equal importance on the location of the art and the art itself. The building is now preserved with installations as Judd left it before his death. Reservations for artist-guided tours are required, and 90-minute drawing sessions are also offered. Seeing an artist’s vision exactly as he wished is definitely not an experience to miss.
Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010) was a French-American artist whose mediums ranged from large-scale sculpture and installation art to painting and printmaking. She and her husband, Robert Goldwater – an art historian – bought a Chelsea-based townhouse on 20th Street in 1962, and Bourgeois remained there until her death. Though the house is not yet open to the public, it still contains Bourgeois’ dresses and coats, with her books and magazines on the bookshelves, and it remains the way that she left it. The house, studio — originally confined to the basement but later expanding into the rest of the house — and the townhouse next door are managed by the Easton Foundation, founded by Bourgeois in the 1980s; make sure to contact this foundation in advance for tours when the house is available to the public.
The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is the former home of Thomas Cole (1801–1848), a famed American landscape artist who founded the Hudson River School – America’s first artistic movement. His house and studio are situated in the Hudson River Valley, surrounded by the incredible views of the Catskill Mountains. The site itself had fallen into disrepair, but it was turned into a museum in 2001. Today, the museum offers guided tours of the house and studio and on-site lectures from May through early November. For the more adventurous types, there are several trails leading to view landscapes that once inspired the artist.
Olana was the home of Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), a landscape artist who was also a central figure in the Hudson River School. In 1869, the artist and his wife returned to America after traveling in the East, and they sought to build a larger home with the help of architect Calvert Vaux. Their imposing house, composed of a mixture of Victorian architectural elements and Persian motifs, is situated on a sweeping slope and offers beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. The house, grounds, and exhibitions are open year-round to the public; however, reservations are recommended.
The Dove/Torr Cottage was home to Modernist artists Arthur Dove and Helen Torr from 1938 until their deaths. Originally a post office and a general store, the cottage is situated on the banks of Titus Mill Pond, three miles from the Heckscher Museum of Art, which acquired rights to the museum in 1998. The museum’s collection includes Dove’s personal art library, his paints and painting materials, examples of his earlier and later work, and about 30 of Torr’s sketches and color studies. Access to the cottage is by invitation and appointment only and is not available to the public at this time, but the museum is open year-round from Wednesday through Sunday. The location creates a deeper understanding of the artists’ works, as the materials that inspired the artists – water, sand, light and wind – surround the area.
In addition to its contemporary art galleries and various exhibitions (both permanent and special), the Museum of Arts and Design is the only New York City museum that allows visitors to interact with artists at work through their Open Studio Program. The art process is often a mystery, thus their Open Studio Program allow visitors to witness and subsequently understand the creative process through a unique behind-the-scenes experience. The museum is open year round from Tuesdays through Sundays.
Pioneer Works, founded by artist Dustin Yellin in 2012, is an organization located in a renovated manufacturing warehouse. It now houses artists’ studios, exhibition and performance spaces, a science lab, and a recording studio. This is a required visit for those interested in seeing artists involved in the collaborative process and their final products. Artists in residence studios are open the public Wednesday through Sunday from noon until 6pm, and tours are available upon request.