Yesterday we were honored to unveil the latest in our historic Plaque Program at 526 LaGuardia Place, where sculptor Chaim Gross lived and worked. You may have passed by it many times and not be aware of the magic inside.
Working predominantly in wood, stone, and eventually bronze, the work of Chaim Gross conveyed a sense of joy, exuberance, and celebration of movement and form. In 1963, Gross and his family moved to the historic home at 526 LaGuardia Place, where the artist worked and lived until his death in 1991. Since 1974, The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation has operated out of the building, acquiring, displaying, researching and educating about art.
The Gross Family chose Greenwich Village as their home in 1963. They raised a family here, and made the historic building their own. Chaim even designed much of the interior, including elements like the wood floors in the 1st floor studio space. They not only raised a family in the neighborhood but they also raised an institution. The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation continues to foster a legacy of arts and culture in the Village, offering exhibition and arts education in a neighborhood with a deep artistic heritage. You can see photos from the unveiling here.
Chaim’s work is inextricably connected to New York, and the Village, and we are proud to recognize Chaim as well as the Foundation for continuing that legacy and ensuring that important cultural sites like the Foundation, and their significant townhouse, are preserved for generations to come.
GVSHP honored the Foundation with a Village Award in 2015 and they were also on our Annual House Tour that same year, so we have a long history together and are proud to continue to honor them.
Among our wonderful speakers yesterday was Chaim’s daughter, Mimi Gross. Mimi is a well known painter, set-and-costume designer, and creator of many installations. Her work is included in numerous public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, The Brooklyn Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Nagoya Museum of Art, the Onasch Collection in Berlin. She spoke about Chaim’s life and career.
Afterwards, Dr. Susan Fisher, the Director and Chief Curator of the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, spoke about their important work. First established in 1974 with donations from over two dozen close friends and supporters of Chaim’s, including Joseph H. Hirshhorn and Roy R. Neuberger, the Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation was incorporated in 1988. The Foundation opened its doors to the public in 1994. In 2009, the Foundation expanded its activities and opened to the public the building’s third floor, comprised of the Gross’s living and dining space. The Foundation stewards an extensive collection of over 10,000 objects that includes Gross’s sculptures, drawings, prints, and sketchbooks; a photographic archive; and Gross’s large personal collection of African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, American, and European art that remains installed in the townhouse as Gross had it during his lifetime.
In addition, since 2009 the Foundation has organized original exhibitions both onsite and at local and national venues on Chaim Gross and the history of American art. The Foundation also hosts public lectures and readings by major contemporary writers, poets and scholars. Noted speakers have included artist Lorrie Goulet; poets Ron Padgett, Elaine Equi, Charles Bernstein, and Simon Pettet; modern poetry scholar Al Filreis, founder of Kelly Writers House at University of Pennsylvania; and critics Mira Schor and Raphael Rubinstein.
The unveiling was followed by an eclectic and delicious selection of pizza from Two Boots, served by founder Phil Hartman himself. A reception was held inside where the preserved studio is visible as are many of Chaim’s pieces.
Don’t worry if you missed the unveiling of the plaque, you can see it outside anytime you walk by and the Foundation on the west side of LaGuardia Place just north of Bleecker Street. And don’t worry if you missed the tour of the building, as the Foundation has expanded its public hours on Thursdays and Saturdays, and will be open as part of Open House NY.