Pilgrimages to Marfa, Texas, are de rigueur for disciples ?of Minimalism. But those seeking Donald Judd’s true gesamtkunstwerk should look eastward to 101 Spring Street in New York City. The SoHo building where the artist toiled, taught, and raised a family opens this month as a museum operated by his foundation. “He had a process for recognizing the original elements and then adding one that would enhance the beauty,” says foundation co-president Rainer Judd of her late father’s interventions. Designed by Nicholas Whyte in 1870, the cast-iron structure was in serious disrepair by 1968, when Judd embarked on restoring its integrity if not all of its original details. Open floor plans probably speak to Whyte’s intention; gaps at the bottom of walls, which distinguish horizontal and vertical planes, were likely not a 19th-century design conceit. Judd’s chief deviations from the space’s spartan austerity were the permanent artworks, including his own site-specific pieces as well as Carl Andre’s Manifest Destiny, 1986, a vertical stack of Empire bricks; Dan Flavin’s fluorescent sculpture mimicking a wall of windows onto Mercer Street; and a 1970 David Novros fresco—a form, Rainer notes, that Judd particularly appreciated for its conflation of art and wall space.
Led by Architecture Research Office principal? Adam Yarinsky and the foundation’s Robert Beyer, the $23-million, three-year restoration tackled the challenge ?of satisfying contemporary safety codes almost invisibly—for instance, by rewiring the fifth floor’s only artificial light source, a Dan Flavin sculpture, to function as an emergency light. “There is no need for improvement, just careful maintenance,” says Flavin Judd, foundation co-president and the artist’s son. “This was 101 Spring Street’s ?140-year checkup.” Now it’s time for the public to check ?in. Doors open on June 3, Judd’s birthday, and guided tours are available by appointment.
This article appears in the June 2013 issue of Art+Auction.