For an artist, the house is not just a shelter. It is a workshop, a refuge, a cabinet of secrets, a place of inspiration. This is where the work is done – work that will one day be released to the world but also, just as crucially, work that will end up in the trash, literally or figuratively. Home is a place to experiment, to make mistakes, to be vulnerable. Home is a place where you never have to defend your creations.
There are as many ways to make art as there is art itself, which is why there is no prototype artist house. Yet, utter the phrase “artist’s house” and a few images, buried in our subconscious, are automatically conjured up: the SoHo loft with its coffee cans full of brushes, the dilapidated country estate with its easels and pottery towers. exploded, the attic of the Parisian poet, by candlelight and cold and romantically dark.
A true artist’s home, however, is as singular and idiosyncratic as the artist who inhabits it: it’s a 1962 modernist fantasy in mauve and plywood with views of Los Angeles, designed by Eric Lloyd Wright, a small- son of Frank, and destined to feel like a cocoon for its main inhabitant, the erotic writer Anaïs Nin; it is the modest and tidy North Carolina childhood home of singer and activist Nina Simone, currently preserved by four black visual artists, and declared a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation; it’s conceptual artist Danh Vo’s farmhouse in the countryside near Berlin, formerly an agricultural collective in the GDR, which he is resurrecting at will as a retreat for artists of all kinds to come and make things – whether this either ceramic or sauerkraut.
By definition, any place where an artist lives, works and dreams is an artist’s house. We want to look inside because we hope seeing how they live will reveal something about how they think. But what makes an artist create art is very rarely visible; it’s something they carry inside, something only they can see — the artist lives in the house, but the art lives in the artist.