“Art is a habit-forming drug, that’s all it is, for the collector, for the artist, for anybody connected with art.” —Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968)
I must say that I agree with Monsieur Duchamp. The French-American Dadaist, who turned urinals and art on their heads, hits the nail on the head: art is a habit-forming drug. On the streets of New York City it is easy to see art everywhere; the streets are open-air art galleries. Architecture is one of the four noble arts; drawing, painting and sculpture are the other three.
I have walked along West 14th Street many times over the past 34 years. This afternoon was the first time that I saw this adorable lunette. It sits above the entry door to the apartments of the 1848 row house at #210. I am sure that I am not alone. Thousands pass by daily, not seeing. There is something new to be seen in New York everyday. Be open! See it!
For some the lunette may appear garish, painted as it is in strong primary colors. I have always liked the red/yellow color combination; take notice of the logo for Walk About New York. The dark blue of the building’s brick sets off the red and yellow. If for no other reason the paint job can be appreciated because it has preserved this fine and touching sculpture, a portrait really. Because of the paint, it is not easy to know what sort of material it is made of.
The subject, so curious, caught my imagination. This young man, captured at the moment of taking pen to paper, is shown in perfect profile. What is he about to write? What is he about draw? I like the ladder-back chair he sits in. Who is this young man? Who is the artist? Shall I take up the mission to discover the answers?
The stretch of West 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, where I found this charming lunette, is known as Little Spain. Across the street is the Spanish Benevolent Society, also known as La Nacional; the Society was established in 1868. Its goal has remained promoting camaraderie and kinship amongst Spanish and American residents of New York City.
Casa Moneo moved to the ground floor of 210 West 14th Street in 1929; the restaurant remained a legendary leader in Spanish and Latin American gastronomy until 1988. Monsieur Duchamp rented the 4th floor of 210 West 14th Street in 1943; here he secretly worked on “Etant Donnes,” a collection of found objects now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Duchamp had other Village domiciles; see his West 10th Street address on Walk About New York’s Greenwich Village Walking Tour.