Donald Judd & Lower Manhattan

Donald Judd moved to 101 Spring Street from his live-work studio on 19th Street and Park Avenue South in 1968, and was one of the first artists to move to the cast-iron district, later known as SoHo. This derelict industrial neighborhood soon became a vibrant haven for artists, writers, musicians, and community activists, among others. Paula Cooper was the first gallery to move into the area when she opened a space on Wooster Street in 1968. Leo Castelli followed, purchasing a space at 420 West Broadway, which opened in 1971. Between 1970 and 1980, 112 Greene Street, a raw space provided by artist Jeff Lew, was used by 112 Workshop (the precursor to White Columns) for installations and performances by artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark, Trisha Brown, Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Richard Serra, Philip Glass and many more.

SoHo quickly became an artists community that fought for its preservation in the New York real estate battle. Judd and his wife, Julie Finch, were co-founders of Artists Against the Expressway, a group that successfully lobbied against Robert Moses’ plan to link the East and West sides of Manhattan with the Broome Street Expressway.  Judd also participated in efforts to change zoning laws in Lower Manhattan to allow the conversion of industrial spaces into live-work studios, through AIR (Artist-in-Residence) designation. Judd hosted dinner parties and social gatherings, and had a genuine curiosity for new ideas and debate about the intersection of art, culture, history, and politics at a time of great tumult and change in the United States and the world. The ground floor of 101 Spring Street was used for occasional temporary exhibitions, community and activist meetings, and performances.

In 1971, he submitted several candid political statements for a downtown newspaper, The Lower Manhattan Township. He criticized existing political structures as artificial and ineffective and promoted collectives of artists, trade workers and residents as strong activists for shaping the city’s neighborhoods. This was part of a lifetime of Judd’s speaking out on art, culture and politics.