Hamptons gem: a creative legacy lives on in Elaine de Kooning's house
Over on Alewive Brook Road in East Hampton, there is a simple saltbox structure and studio with a provenance steeped in art. Artist Elaine de Kooning purchased the home in 1975 while she was reconciling with her husband Willem de Kooning. She added a sunroom and studio that would end up being the location where she would paint her last series of works, Bacchus and Cave Walls. When de Kooning passed away at age 70 in 1989, sculptor John Chamberlain purchased the house and lived there for around five years in the 1990s, creating his crushed car metal sculptures in the driveway.
The bucolic seaside location of the Hamptons has always been a place conducive for producing art; Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol all made work there, and when Chris Byrne, an art advisor and co-founder of the Dallas Art Fair, saw that the home was on the market in 2011, he envisioned a future where its new owners would forget its association with the art world, so he bought it. 'I was motivated by the house's history,' says Byrne. Since purchasing the house in 2010, he has made renovations, painstakingly preserving each of the modifications its former owners added.
'You get the feeling that anywhere in the house could be used to set up a portrait or make painting,' he says, noting that Willem also worked out of the house. Thus, Byrne turned the home into the location for an unofficial artist’s residency, inviting artists he knows to create work there.
Lizzi Bougatsos, Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe, Liz Markus, Scott and Tyson Reeder, John Riepenhoff, and Michael Williams are among the artists who have turned the de Kooning house into a temporary home and work space since 2011. There’s no formal application process for artists who are interested in participating in the residency there. 'The process has been completely organic; visiting artists and friends have recommended artists as well as proposed specific installations and projects for the space,' Byrne explains.
Byrne plans to keep de Kooning’s work as a mentor and teacher to young artists alive by continuing to cultivate creativity within the home. 'I’ve come to really respect her range of activities and generosity,' he says. 'My hope is to continue to make the space available to artists, curators and writers.'