Skip to content
A brown painted bronze sculpture of a beam with a haunched on a base. Wheels have been affixed to the lower right and left of the sculpture, in between the wheels, on the front of the sculpture, is a peg. The work's title, Hole, appears above the wheels, painted in black stenciled letters against a yellow band of paint. Above the title are a yellow and a red arrow, each pointing towards a hole in the sculpture. The tenon and top front of the beam are painted red.

Once upon a time, art sprang like weeds from New York’s garbage-strewn streets, seeding creativity around the world. Scraps of urban decay, along with gleaming shreds of old glamour, fertilised artistic visions. Manhattan in the early 1960s was a sort of modern Medici Florence, producing more excellent art in a handful of years than we have been able to assimilate in the decades since.

There’s a bittersweet reason for that ferment. New York was simultaneously experiencing the trauma of deindustrialisation and spasms of reinvention. The waterfront had a bleary, hungover look and some of its real estate was grungy, ample and cheap — perfect conditions in which to nurture a creative colony. But the city couldn’t afford to stay derelict, and it was never going to be long before steam shovels dislodged artists and bulky new towers replaced walk-ups with rickety fire escapes.


The Rebecca, a painting with a black ground and its title painted in white stenciled letters across the bottom of the canvas. Above the text is a large circle, at the center of which is a blue eight within a white ring with a the black text "Port of New York," within a red compass rose within a blue circle. Surrounding this is another white ring, containing the text, in black, "The American Slave Company."

The Rebecca, 1962. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's, New York; Artwork: © Star of Hope Foundation, Vinalhaven, Maine