Photo: This side of Paradise Project
An exhibition named after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel “This Side of Paradise” is bringing art, splendor and new life to a New York mansion that once served as a rest home for the formerly wealthy.
“Our mission is to transform the empty spaces with art,” said Jodie Dinapoli, program director of No Longer Empty, a New York-based non-profit arts organization that since 2009 has filled buildings with works of installation art, including the 32 creations distributed throughout the Andrew Freedman Home in The Bronx.
The series of collective and individual installations that make up the exhibition - which opened last week - includes 11 works by Spanish and Latin American artists.
The works have been distributed among 21 rooms, two dance halls and a corridor with peeled-off paint in the 9,000-sq. meter (96,750-sq.-foot) mansion, which Freedman (1860-1915) bequeathed as a private residence and haven for elderly individuals who had lost their fortunes.
In his will, the business mogul and owner of the New York Giants baseball team set aside a part of his fortune for a palace that would allow the erstwhile well-to-do to once again enjoy the luxury they had become accustomed to in their younger years.
“There were a lot of Europeans, including Austrians and Germans, and even a Czarist Russian general. Many of them had been very involved in art and Freedman, who perhaps feared he might one day lose his own fortune, wanted to give them this gift, give them this second life, as if they were wealthy once again,” Dinapoli said.
“They lived in total luxury, with white glove parties, gala dinners, dances ... like on the Titanic,” she added.
The mansion, which opened in 1924, served its initial purpose until the 1980s, when Freedman’s endowment ran out. Although the building was converted to a day-care center and events space, most of the rooms were sealed off and many of the belongings of its former inhabitants were left inside intact.
The 32 artists working at the house as part of the “This Side of Paradise” exhibition were permitted to use those antiques to create their works, including a piano that Ecuadorian Nicky Enright combined with several typewriters to symbolize a sound studio.
Colombian Federico Uribe used pennies, keys, silver spoons, domino pieces and crutches used by the mansion’s residents to create a tapestry brimming with intense colors, presided over by a portrait of Freedman made of cables “because he was a very politically and economically connected man,” Dinapoli said.
Spain’s Abigail Lazcoz has contributed to the exhibition with drawings inspired by the jumble of objects found in the mansions rooms.
Dominican Scherezade Garcia, for her part, inverted the space by moving furniture to the roof in an installation that symbolized the fact “the universe of these elderly persons had come crumbling down ... and they were living upside down in the world,” Dinapoli said