Our ongoing series “My sqft” checks out the homes of 6sqft’s friends, family and fellow New Yorkers across all the boroughs. Our latest interior adventure brings us to the art-filled Greenwich Village loft of two art world professionals. Want to see your home featured here? Get in touch!
When you step into this Greenwich Village loft, there’s a welcoming feeling of calm amid the unexpected combinations of Western and Asian art, historic and contemporary furniture, and traditional and eclectic objects. This can be attributed to the keen curation skills of the owners, who are affiliated with Chambers Fine Art, a New York- and Beijing-based gallery that specializes in contemporary Chinese art. For 10 years they’ve called this spacious apartment home, and 6sqft recently took a tour of the space and got the inside scoop on some of their most prized art pieces.
The wicker-topped coffee table was originally a day bed.
Before moving to the loft 10 years ago, you were in Tribeca for many years, followed by a brief stint on the Upper West Side. Do you miss Tribeca? And what about the Upper West Side didn’t suite you?
I moved to Tribeca in the early 1980s when the entire area was in a transitional stage. There were still many loft building that had not been converted into co-ops or condominiums. It was really very quiet and mysterious at night. There was one supermarket, one dry-cleaner and only one restaurant that everybody went to – the Odeon. I miss the way it was thirty years ago but not what it has become. I tried the Upper West Side for a few years after moving from Tribeca, but apart from its proximity to Lincoln Center, it was not to my taste, far too homogeneous.
How did you end up in this apartment? What attracted you to it?
After ruling out Tribeca, Soho and the Lower East Side we settled on Greenwich Village, half way between Washington Square and Union Square, right in the middle of NYU. It’s a very lively neighborhood, but the street on which we live is quiet as there is no through traffic. The apartment itself is a classic New York loft, the one difference being that there is a wall of windows on the western exposure. Another attractive feature was that it had been renovated over 30 years ago and untouched since then. In other words, a tabula rasa.
How have you seen the neighborhood change over the past decade?
In some ways it’s improved, with the renovation of Washington Square for example. On the other hand, like so many districts in New York, its lively mix of residential and retail is under constant threat. What used to be the site of a bowling alley on University Place will soon be occupied by a 23-story apartment building, completely changing the character of the street.
The screen is by artist and designer John Rocha. It uses the ancient Chinese paper cutting technology, but what look like Chinese characters on the bottom half are actually the leftovers from the circles above.
The table is a 17th century classical Chinese piece.
What are some of your favorite spots in the neighborhood, current and bygone?
The Strand Bookstore is still there, but the St. Marks Place bookstore has closed. The Union Square Market is one of my favorite spots. I used to go there from Tribeca but now it’s right on my doorstep. Film Forum and IFC, not quite in the neighborhood but within easy walking distance.
The hardwood floors are the only element original to the apartment. Lining the hall are Tibetan prayer rugs. When renovating the loft, the couple wanted to be able to see from one end of the apartment to the other.
Tell us a bit about Chambers Fine Art.
Chambers Fine Art was established in Chelsea in 2000. During the 1990s there was growing international awareness of contemporary Chinese art but very few galleries that
specialized in it. Chambers was one of the first, noteworthy for its concentration on conceptually oriented art and photography rather than oil painting, which was already gaining wide recognition in the market place. In 2007, a second gallery was opened in Beijing since most of the artists we dealt with were based there. Typically, exhibitions originate in Beijing before moving to New York in an edited form since the New York premises are smaller.
The lightbulb is by Italian designer Ingo Maurer, who has a shop in Soho.
How do you feel Chelsea compares with the Village?
Chelsea is undergoing much more rapid development than the Village. Already the High Line is being hemmed in by expensive new condominiums, and on most blocks there is a similar invasion, leading to an increasing homogeneity. In fact there is so much construction that I am often reminded of Beijing or Hong Kong!
With such an impressive art collection and a constant immersion in the art world, how do you choose which pieces to display in your home?
We don’t really think of the art on display as a collection as it changes all the time. There are six to eight exhibitions in the gallery each year that provide an opportunity to refresh the hanging. We also like to display smaller works on shelves so that we don’t have to patch the walls every time we move something.
Though Chambers specializes in contemporary Chinese art, your home still has a classic feel to it. Was this intentional?
Not intentional exactly although we both dislike clutter and like the elegance of classic Chinese furniture and modern design. We designed the apartment so that we could see from one end to the other and placed the furniture accordingly.
The colorful squares in the office are by Martin Kline, a friend of the couple from upstate.
The knickknacks on the shelves are from different trips.
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Neighborhoods : Greenwich Village