The late abstract painter Judith Rothschild — whose massive gift of contemporary drawings is now on display at MoMA — spent her life straddling the worlds of Park Avenue high society and downtown bohemia.
That’s evident at Rothschild’s former home, a 25-foot-wide townhouse at 1110 Park Avenue between 89th and 90th streets, now listed for rent for $18,000 a month. A traditional carriage house on the outside, the interior of the space is more akin to a contemporary art gallery, with its white walls, remote-controlled window shades and a massive, triangular skylight equipped with an oversized industrial ceiling fan.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Marc Lewis, the president of Century 21 NY Metro, which has the 3,000-square-foot rental listing. “It doesn’t belong on the Upper East Side — it’s a Soho-type apartment.” According to PropertyShark.com, the building is 5,100 square feet including a retail space on the bottom floor.
Or, as listing broker Christa Lawrence of Century 21 NY Metro put it: “I could see a nightclub owner who married an Upper East Side matron doing very well in this apartment.”
Rothschild is the enigmatic artist whose multi-million dollar estate gifted a much-hyped 2,500-piece collection of drawings to MoMA in 2005. The resulting exhibition, “Compass in Hand: Selections from the Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection,” debuted at the museum in April, featuring works by Lee Bontecou, Jaspers Johns and more than 600 other artists. Rothschild, who focused mostly on painting, is not including in the collection, though her work is included in MoMA’s holdings, as well as those of the Met, the National Gallery and others, according to the Judith Rothschild Foundation Web site.
Rothschild, an associate of famous abstract expressionist Robert Motherwell, is known for her bold relief paintings. Despite her accomplishments as an artist, Rothschild is perhaps best known for creating the Judith Rothschild Foundation, to which she left works by Mondrian, Matisse and Picasso that had been collected by her parents. Her will stated that the artworks were to be distributed by the foundation within 25 years of her death, and the proceeds — estimated at some $40 million — used to support and promote the work of her fellow contemporary American artists.
The drawing collection now on view at MoMA was gifted to the museum after the foundation’s sole trustee, a friend of Rothschild’s named Harvey Shipley Miller, caused a stir in the art world when he announced he would spend a year acquiring contemporary drawings with several million dollars of the foundation’s money. He then donated them to MoMA, where Miller is a trustee of the museum and a member of its drawings committee. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Rothschild’s gift, which some say is the largest of its kind, is certainly the largest collection of drawings ever to be given to MoMA and the largest exhibition of drawings in the museum’s history, Christian Rattemeyer, an associate curator of drawings at the museum, told The Real Deal.
“She recognized that her personal circumstances were luckier than some of her colleagues,” Rattemeyer said. “The idea of an artistic community was important to her, the idea that within that community there are well-known and obscure people, but you still had an exchange of artists. That’s the spirit of this.”
Born in New York to well-to-do furniture manufacturer Herbert Rothschild and wife, Nanette, Judith showed an early interest in painting and helped guide her parents as they amassed their art collection, which they left mostly to her when they died in the 1970s.
In the meantime, Judith had married novelist Anton Myrer and moved to California, only to return to New York after they divorced, according to published reports. In 1971, she began living at 1110 Park Avenue, a townhouse she later purchased, adding “a brutally modern top-floor art studio,” according to a 1994 story in the New York Times.
Writings about Rothschild indicate that she struggled to reconcile her artistic leanings with her privileged background. According to the Times, Rothschild “felt diffident about being an artist and being on Park Avenue, even wanting to adopt a side street address, although without result.”
Rothschild lived at 1110 Park Avenue until her death in 1993 at age 71. Her foundation used the house, which has 25-foot ceilings and two terraces, for offices before selling it in 2007 for $15 million to an unknown buyer identified as Dm2 Park Ave LLC, according to city records. Details about more recent residents of 1110 Park Avenue are murky.
Lewis said the space is currently empty after being rented several years ago for $38,000 a month. But he said Century 21 was hired by a managing company, and further information about the current owners was not available.
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