156 WEST 22ND STREET
The Facts: Four-story brownstone with ground-floor commercial space and three residential lofts.
Asking Price: $6.5 million.
Agent: Wigder Frota, Prudential Douglas Elliman.
The Chelsea Art Scene, 1936 Edition
As the art world’s center of commerce, Chelsea only supplanted Soho a few years ago. But artists were there long before—notably Willem de Kooning, who kept a studio in this building on West 22nd Street for a decade. In their 2005 biography of the artist, Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan explain that he moved here in 1936, with a girlfriend, Juliet Browner—illegally, as the building was zoned for commercial use only. (It had no hot water.) De Kooning kept it spotless, knocking off work early each Saturday to scrub. The couple gave regular parties and socialized with Martin Craig, a sculptor who lived downstairs.
Browner didn’t stick around, but within a couple of years, de Kooning met his wife, Elaine Fried, and they settled in the same building, one floor up. There, he constructed built-in furniture and overhauled the floor-through into a cozy place to live. (They had trouble sharing it, however: They painted at opposite ends of the apartment, growing irritable at each other.) At $35 a month, it was also a little too expensive; as jobs dried up during the war years, de Kooning’s income did, too, and they were evicted in December 1946.
Today, the building has been refashioned into three bright bathrooms, and the ground floor’s a pet boutique. The tin ceilings overhead, however, are the same ones that sheltered the de Koonings. (As of press time, the building had been temporarily pulled off the market, but, says broker Wigder Frota, it’ll return in the spring.)