Tucked away on an unassuming block on LaGuardia Place is the former studio and home of sculptor Chaim Gross and his wife Renee. Gross, whose art can be found in the permanent collections of such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, worked and lived in the Village for much of his life. The building, which is now home to the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, houses an extensive collection of Gross’s sculptures and drawings, a fascinating archive of letters, catalogues, clippings, and photographs, as well as Gross’s large personal collection of art. It is well worth a visit.
Exhibits at the Foundation are located on three floors, with each floor offering a unique perspective. The ground floor, which was an exhibition space-studio during Gross’s lifetime, remains as it was. His many works of sculpture are featured here, and visitors can interact with the pieces just as Gross intended. Here, one can learn about sculpture as in no other museum. The first floor contains a permanent installation of Gross’s sculpture from the 1920s through the 1980s. The second floor is dedicated to revolving exhibits featuring sculpture and works on paper by Gross as well as modern European and African art from his personal collection, and a library/archives. The third floor, which was the Gross’s personal living space, is still arranged as such. Visitors are treated to the personal collection of the artist, including his African art collection and pieces by western artists—many of which were received as gifts or obtained through exchanges with the artists.
Gross, who immigrated to New York following World War I, had his first studios in the East Village. He took classes at the Educational Alliance Art School on the Lower East Side, later becoming a teacher there and at the New School. During the depression, he worked with the Works Progress Administration’s Public Works of Art Project. A number of Gross’s sculptures are on public display, but perhaps the most familiar to those in the Village is “The Family,” a bronze sculpture located in the Bleecker Street Sitting Area on the corner of Bleecker and West 11th Streets. Cast in 1979, the sculpture was presented by Gross to the city in 1992 in honor of former Mayor Ed Koch. This joyful sculpture, which depicts a loving family, is well-situated overlooking the Bleecker Street Playground.
The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, which is open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays from 1:00 to 5:00 PM, is a unique Village treat. GVSHP members had the opportunity to visit the Foundation last week, and we highly recommend this community cornerstone.
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