Step Inside Donald Judd's Finest Work

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Step Inside Donald Judd's Finest Work

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In 1968, a young artist by the name of Donald Judd purchased a former department store in SoHo for less than $70,000. “There was no SoHo when Judd bought his building,” artist Carl Andre once noted of the neighborhood then populated by sweatshops and small factories. Times have changed, as they are known to do, but in an astonishing feat of conservation, the five-story cast-iron building, which Judd transformed floor by floor into his home, studio, and ultimately an extension of his aesthetic and philosophical expression, is once again almost precisely as the artist left it. For the past five years, 101 Spring Street has been operating as a permanent museum following an extensive $23 million overhaul led by Judd’s daughter and son and members of the Judd Foundation.  

True to Judd’s vision and rejection of European illusionism, the space is a reflection of his concept that the work should represent itself. From the books in his library, bottles of liquor, and fine works of Dan Flavin and Frank Stella, the foundation has taken every measure to keep the SoHo museum frozen in 1994 when it was last inhabited. The five floors each tell an intimate story, from the lecture space on the first floor to the simple beauty of Judd’s fifth-floor open-concept bedroom lined with fluorescent tubes. Visitors enter an intimate space once inhabited by the artist, who never knew it would eventually become his last work of art.

The former residence and studio isn’t just the last purely unadulterated industrial building on the block, it’s also Judd’s finest work—intentional or not. Every object inside the building breaks out of the traditional rectangles of two-dimensional art, expands from the confines of gallery walls, and even defies the grid known as Manhattan itself. Judd wasn’t interested in temporary installations or juxtaposing a sculpture somewhere to be critiqued, cataloged, and removed. He wanted to create permanent spaces that were the art.

Currently, Donald Judd: Paintings 1960-1961 will be on display on the ground floor of 101 Spring Street through December. The nine untitled works in the exhibition reflect Judd’s preoccupation with the possibility of creating non-illusionistic space in two dimensions and display his experimental approach with a variety of techniques and materials including found objects, wax, and sand. Curated by Judd’s son, Flavin, the exhibition will be accompanied by public programs looking at Judd’s painting practice.    

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