Lives Catalogue, 1975 Bookmark and Share

Introduction: The Fine Arts Building

Lives: exhibition and catalogue organized by Jeffrey Deitch
The Fine Arts Building, 105 Hudson St., NYC
November 29 - December 20, 1975

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Artist Ray Johnson at the opening of Self-Portraits, Fine Arts Building, 1975. Photo by Marcia Resnick
Artist Ray Johnson at the opening of Self-Portraits, Fine Arts Building, 1975. Photo by Marcia Resnick
Julian Pretto and Susan Penzner at the opening of Self-Portraits, Fine Arts Building, 1975. Photo by Marcia Resnick
Julian Pretto and Susan Penzner at the opening of Self-Portraits, Fine Arts Building, 1975. Photo by Marcia Resnick

The "Lives" exhibition by Jeffrey Deitch that opened in November 1975 at the Fine Arts Building featured the experimental artists that I had admired and identified with in the early 1970s. The exhibition also marked the start of a brief period when the Fine Arts Building, a large, eleven-floor office building at 105 Hudson Street, was the center of an energetic art scene that helped rejuvenate the deserted neighborhood just south of Soho -- the now fashionable Tribeca. With its abundance of cheap live-in studios, offices and exhibition spaces, the building fostered the camaraderie and networking that helped nourish radical new directions in the 1980s. For those who were there it was a stimulating time that ended abruptly when the building went co-op in the late 1970s. The young artists and fledgling galleries that helped develop the building and neighborhood were priced out and had to seek new quarters. Most migrated to the East Village and the Lower East Side where a new phase in the evolution of the art of the period began.

Writer Kathy Acker at the opening of Self-Portraits, Fine Arts Building, 1975. Photo by Marcia Resnick
Writer Kathy Acker at the opening of Self-Portraits, Fine Arts Building, 1975. Photo by Marcia Resnick
Robin Crutchfield at the opening of Self-Portraits, Fine Arts Building, 1975. Photo by Marcia Resnick
Robin Crutchfield at the opening of Self-Portraits, Fine Arts Building, 1975. Photo by Marcia Resnick
Art Dealer Holly Solomon at the opening of Self-Portraits, Fine Arts Building, 1975. Photo by Marcia Resnick
Art Dealer Holly Solomon at the opening of Self-Portraits, Fine Arts Building, 1975. Photo by Marcia Resnick

Leading the rise of the Fine Arts Building was Julian Pretto, a young art entrepreneur hired by the owners of 105 Hudson to manage and promote the property. Hand-drawn flyers advertising cheap rents were posted on Soho walls, and the empty building was quickly filled with creative types. A free-spirited atmosphere reigned: on the top floor there was a large open space for art exhibitions and performances; one floor had a crash pad for assorted youth and European travelers; the basement became a rehearsal space for rock groups like the Erasers who lived in the building; Pretto himself had two gallery spaces; and David Ebony ran a gallery out of his live-in studio and hosted memorable performances such as Robin Winters washing the feet of visitors. In 1977 Marcia Tucker rented a small office where she started the New Museum; and in 1978 Artist's Space took over much of the 2nd floor where they mounted the now famous "Pictures" exhibition, and the No Wave rock concerts that led to the No New York record album produced by Brian Eno.

I first discovered the Find Arts Building in the fall of 1975 when my work was included in exhibitions in the top-floor gallery. These shows were being organized by young, innovative curators recruited by Pretto to help put 105 Hudson Street on the art map. My work was featured in two exhibitions: "Not Photography," curated by Edit DeAk, and "Lives," organized by Jeffrey Deitch. A year later in January 1977 I also had a solo show (with my collaborator Bettie Ringma) at Photo Works, one of Pretto's galleries then run by the lead singer of the Erasers, Susan Springfield. On Saturdays the building bustled with openings and parties, and its halls were filled with artists, writers, and musicians. Here I discovered my own creative direction along with many fellow travelers with whom I would cross paths again and again over the coming years.

The Fine Arts Building, 105 Hudson Street, New York City. Photo courtesy Wally Gobetz
The Fine Arts Building, 105 Hudson Street, New York City. Photo courtesy Wally Gobetz
Contact information and staff listing from the catalogue "Memory," the first New Museum exhibition, 1977
Contact information and staff listing from the catalogue "Memory," the first New Museum exhibition, 1977
Bands at Artists Space, flyer, 1978
Bands at Artists Space, flyer, 1978