Head to DUMBO House for your art (and skyline views) fix
To mark Frieze New York, we’re taking a closer look at the club’s conceptual art collection dedicated to exploring architecture
Thursday 18 May 2023 By Anastasiia Fedorova
Sitting between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, DUMBO House is the ultimate destination for 180° skyline views of the city that make you want to pinch yourself. The perfect spot for brunch, an afternoon meeting or late-night cocktails for all the art lovers who are in town for Frieze New York this week, DUMBO first opened on the Brooklyn waterfront in 2018. With an expansive indoor and outdoor member space and interiors inspired by Mexican architect Luis Barragán, the club has a note-worthy art collection of its own.
Curated by Soho House Global Director of Art, Kate Bryan, the collection includes more than 80 works and serves as an ongoing inquiry into architecture – fitting for all the surrounding urban glory. ‘I realised quite early on that the art collection was never going to be able to compete with the view, and made it more conceptual,’ she says. ‘A lot of the other Houses I’ve curated have large beautiful paintings or murals, or site-specific installations. But DUMBO is a much more conceptual piece.’
Below, Bryan shares the story behind the collection and some of the highlights worth looking out for.
Reflecting DUMBO’s unique character
‘I first went to the site shortly after I joined the company in 2016. Soho House has a history in the city with Soho House New York and Ludlow House, but DUMBO is an extraordinary location with a 180° view of the skyline, which immediately made me think, “there’s nothing like this”. DUMBO as an area is quite small, but it’s got such a big personality. Of course, I knew a lot about the downtown 1980s New York scene. And I really loved this idea that the artists were the first to put this area on the map. And it’s still exciting to have a lot of artists in close proximity, making work which responds to the location.
‘Watching this area unfold with a bigger audience, and everyone suddenly talking about DUMBO, and a location that was just so spectacularly architectural – those were the two main things which influenced the collection. All the works in it contribute to a conversation about architecture.’
The changing skyline
‘At the reception, we have a piece by Hank Willis Thomas, which is from his flag series – made from old reclaimed flags woven together to make this new kind of tapestry. This work talks about history and who gets to tell the history, and the gender perspectives we give to objects.
‘Another work I got quite early was a piece by Sir David Adjaye, who is a renowned British architect. I thought it would be interesting to blur the boundaries of the collection and actually include something that was by a practising architect, and actually one of the best architects in the world. Then you’d have this reference point for the rest of the works being architectural. At the time, he was actually building something new in the financial district that was his first skyscraper, and he very generously let us acquire his sketch for it. We hung it on a wall, which is near the window, so for the first year of the club’s life, the members could basically look at the drawing and then see the drawing slowly emerge on the skyline.
‘Two vintage photographs by Steven Siegel recall the recent past of DUMBO, with one showing the seriously neglected Brooklyn Bridge footpath and the other the skyline through the smashed window of an abandoned car on the waterfront. So, you’re seeing the Brooklyn Bridge, the landmark and monumental piece of architecture, but also seeing the detritus, the rundown nature of the city in its past.’
Playing with the meaning of architecture
‘In this collection, we really played with what architecture meant through the perspectives of different artists. There’s a work by Donna Huanca whose practice is largely about the body and performance – it’s a collage, and you could read it as a building, but you could also read it as a body. We also have people in the collection who went on to be globally recognised, like Awol Erizku who went on to photograph Beyoncé. Alongside US and New York-based artists, we also have international names such as Alex Hartley and Idris Khan, who are both British and focused on architecture. Christopher Michlig’s neon silkscreen prints are also among the highlights.’
Apply for membership at DUMBO House.