Chuck Close lighting unresolved

That fascinating issue about whether a developer would get a variance to block the light of Noho artists’ studios (including that of Chuck Close) will continue for another month, and may be heading towards a negotiated resolution. I blogged about it in July; here’s an update.
Big artist calls out big art’s big guns
The Zoning Committee of Community Board 2 hearing that was to consider the variance application in mid-August has been adjourned while the developer talks to the artists whose light is at stake. Once again The Villager has the story.
Not surprisingly, the case attracted major interest in the art world, and The Villager describes two letters sent to government officials, one from Glenn D. Lowry, the Museum of Modern Art’s director, and one from Nan Rosenthal, a curator in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of 19-century, Modern and Contemporary Art.
The letters emphasize the importance of Close’s work, as you would expect from their sources. From a public policy perspective, however, I hope there will be commentary about whether and under what circumstances an “artist’s easement for light” should be required, or purchased.
Lowry wrote
“I understand the need for development. I also believe that a balance should be found between new construction and the protection of artists whose work has helped define a neighborhood and, in fact, our city. I would urge the Board of Standards and Appeals to carefully review the plans of the proposed project to insure that the building does not adversely affect Mr. Close’s working environment. Mr. Close is one of the United States’ leading artists and has long been an advocate of New York City’s importance as the cultural capital of the country,” Lowry wrote.
Ms. Rosenthal took the same tack:
“The project will block light from artists’ studios of long standing at 20 Bond St., including that of Chuck Close, the United States’ most brilliant colorist”. “Light is essential to Close’s work. Without it, Close will be forced to leave the building and Noho for brighter space, very likely moving his studio out of the city.”
Close is not just an extraordinary painter and printmaker, he is also ‘Mr. Art World.’…. Close is handicapped (he had a spinal aneurysm in 1989 and is confined to a wheelchair) and having a studio where he can move his canvases easily from ground floor to basement mechanically — and still have light — is crucial.
“Please ask the developers to select a different plan,” Rosenthal urged.
Not surprisingly, the chair of CB2’s Zoning Community was impressed by the letters.
“Obviously, he’s a big shot because you get letters from two major museums about him specifically,” she noted. “It’s not just some little art gallery in the Village.”
Nothing against Chuck Close, but I wonder what would have happened if the developer had not needed a variance to build something that would block light from the 20 Bond Street artists. But for the variance request, the City would have nothing to say about the plans.
Like views, all light is provisional in Manhattan
While I don’t know this for sure, it appears that this is a situation of someone taking for granted the “fact” that they would always have light, because they “always” had. Presumably, Close and friends would have had the opportunity to offer cash to the owners of the undeveloped lot in order to protect “their” light, but they probably figured that they did not have to.
This is a situation similar to the folks at Lincoln Towers who had terrific Hudson River views (see the blog entry that got me started on Mr. Close’s situation), looking over rail yards that could “never” be developed – until The Donald did.
Stay tuned until late September.
Is your light at risk?
In the meantime, if you really need the light you currently enjoy in your loft, maybe you should research the development possibilities between you and the sun.
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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