1922: Artists ask DA to probe studio rentals
An influential group of American artists asked the New York District Attorney to investigate landlords who were renting artists’ studios to “pseudo artists and loose living people,” 92 years ago this month.
The League of American Artists, which included important painters such as George Bellows and Robert Henri, cited a survey that found that 70 percent of the studios in Manhattan were occupied by people of “questionable character,” with the problem particularly acute in Greenwich Village and Columbus Circle.
Meanwhile, artists were being forced out of Manhattan to Brooklyn, the Bronx and to other states. The group estimated that of about 14,000 studios in Manhattan, about 10,000 were rented to “fake” artists.
One building that had undergone the change was Hotel des Artistes, a 17-story building at 1 West 67th Street (now a cooperative building) where most of the tenants were no longer artists.
“Real estate agents are booming the studio idea. And stressing the so-called ‘free life’ of artists to such an extent that bona-fide artists are being denied renewals,” the New York Times quoted the artist Julian Bowes as saying.
Bowes said in one instance a studio that had been rented to an artist for $35 per month a few years earlier was raised to $150 per month by a landlord whose motto was, “No questions asked.”