The idyllic mansion that once was the Andrew Freedman Home looks out of place in the current surrounding architecture of the Bronx. Non-profit group No Longer Empty has taken over the abandoned palatial structure, transforming it into an art installation like no other. "This Side of Paradise" asked various artists to create works influenced by the colorful history of one of the Bronx's remaining mansions. On view through June 5, the exhibition transforms the rooms of the ornate home into contemporary site-specific art.
Abandoned since the 1980s, the Andrew Freedman Home was once a unique retirement home, funded by Freedman (who owned the NY Giants from 1894-1902) specifically for wealthy elderly people who had lost their fortunes. Having almost lost his fortune himself, Freedman left an endowment to create the estate-like retirement home, which provided its residents with white glove dinner service, a ball room, gorgeous wood-paneled library, billiard room, and a lush gated lawn and gardens, much like a country estate. Built from 1922-1931, the palazzo villa is a glimpse of the splendor that once existed in the Bronx.
The disused building was perfect for a project by No Longer Empty, who temporarily takes over the city’s abandoned historic spaces, transforming them into art installations that are inspired by the history of their venues. The rich library still remains, letting visitors imagine life amidst the overly ornate interior, while video installations play in the room. Much of the works throughout the building by 26 participating artists are made from recycled materials, tying in adaptive reuse of the home itself. A patterned mosaic sculpture of broken tiles, silverware, keys, and gears lay upon the grand ballroom floor, evoking an expensive Oriental rug that could have decorated the mansion in its glory.
Each room in the mansion is a discovery in both history and art, with both mid-career and emerging artists transforming each space. “This Side of Paradise” is one of those all-encompassing exhibitions that New Yorkers should not miss, fusing a piece of our history with contemporary artists that are relevant to New York today. The exhibition is open through June and will also host an array of community programming and lectures.
Images ©Lori Zimmer for Inhabitat