In the 1970s and ’80s, when Rainer Judd was growing up at 101 Spring Street in New York’s SoHo with her father, the artist Donald Judd, she’d sit in the building’s open windows, “because no one told me not to,” she said, and because back then, SoHo was a “creaky, dirty, lovely place.” In 1971, her father wrote that one day, the neighborhood might be invaded by “tourist shops and restaurants, bad art and high rents.” And while this premonition has largely come to pass, his home, a cast-iron former textile factory where his family — which also included his wife, the dancer Julie Finch, and his son, Flavin — lived according to Judd’s influential ideas about art and architecture, is almost entirely unchanged.
Judd believed that the placement of a work of art is fundamental to how it’s understood, a notion he called “permanent installation.” The entirety of 101 Spring is a kind of domestic permanent installation, and its meticulous preservation is thanks to the Judd Foundation, which Rainer, 53, oversees with Flavin, 55. Established in 1994 upon their father’s death, the Judd Foundation is dedicated to maintaining the artist’s living and working spaces, libraries and archives at 101 Spring and in Marfa, Texas. One of the foundation’s first projects was a $23 million restoration of the family house. Now, its focus is on restoring many of the 20-plus properties that the artist owned in Marfa and the completion of his unfinished architectural plans there.
On a recent evening, the building’s oversize windows were open, filling the rooms with warm early fall air as roughly 50 guests milled about them. The occasion was a benefit dinner in support of the Marfa Restoration Plan, only the third such event held at 101 Spring Street since the building reopened to the public in 2013. Rainer greeted gallery directors, artists and old friends as they entered the ground floor exhibition space, where works by Judd hang on the walls. On the floor below, the chefs Ignacio Mattos and David Tanis were preparing a three-course meal designed in partnership with the chef and author Alice Waters that would be plated on the second floor. “They would’ve got on bonkers,” said Rainer of Waters and her father, both believers in making things slowly and with purpose.
The atmosphere was relaxed, even familial. Guests reveled in uncovering common connections — to each other, the house and Judd. “I love to see things evolve and be reborn,” said Rainer, who lives full time in Marfa, of being back in her childhood home. Her father entertained often, and she said they share many of the same ideas about what constitutes a well-executed night, including “actually learning from other people, changing your mind, debating.” One difference? “I think I’m probably a better cook.”
The attendees: Guests ranged from old friends of Judd’s — including Elizabeth C. Baker, his editor at Art in America, and the artist David Novros, whose large-scale fresco still covers a wall on the second floor — to cultural figures such as the French designer Michèle Lamy and the actress Chloë Sevigny, and her partner Siniša Mačković, the director of Karma gallery. A kind of art world second generation was represented by guests like Argento Celant, the son of the art historian Germano Celant, and Maartje Oldenburg, the daughter and stepdaughter, respectively, of the sculptors Coosje van Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg.
The food: Waters designed the autumnal menu alongside Mattos — the chef and founder of Mattos Hospitality — and Tanis, who, with Waters, recently opened Lulu, the courtyard restaurant at Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum. For passed appetizers, the team served an array of crostini, with toppings including chicken liver pâté, and what Tanis called “gorgeous radishes wrapped in anchovies and butter.” The seated starter was a mozzarella salad blanketed with parsley and shaved bottarga, one of Mattos’s specialties, and the entree was an elevated take on Marseille-style fish stew, with chunks of halibut, lobster and mussels. Waters was inspired at the last minute to make crème brûlée for dessert after enjoying one at 9 Orchard, the hotel and bar where Mattos oversees dining.
The drinks: Champagne and French wine were on offer, but tequila was the standout. Judd was a fan of the Mexican spirit and, in 2021, the Judd Foundation opened an agave garden in Marfa with the support of Bertha González Nieves, a board member and the chief executive of the small-batch tequila producer Casa Dragones. During the cocktail hour, a simple Paloma of Casa Dragones Blanco on the rocks with a grapefruit twist was served. After dinner, González Nieves visited tables sharing a special bottle of Joven, pouring it into thin-stemmed glasses for guests to savor neat.
The music: The only music came courtesy of Joe Brady, a bagpiper who began playing for Judd in the late ’70s in New York and Marfa, and whose father had played for the artist before him. Judd adored bagpipes, especially pibroch, a complex genre of piping associated with the Scottish highlands that Brady compared to classical music. Brady recalled having hosted classes with Judd at 101 Spring Street with “seven or eight bagpipes until 11 p.m.” That evening, as had been the custom at many of Judd’s gatherings, Brady called guests to their seats by playing the pipes and marching up the stairs to the dining room.
The table: Constructed by Judd, the family’s wooden dining room table was set in its original position on the second floor. “Growing up, we weren’t allowed to put our backpacks on it, but other than that we’d make quite a mess on that table,” said Rainer, who that evening sat at a Swedish side table also original to the house and placed next to the original kitchen. Judd didn’t like flowers as decoration; he preferred bowls of fruit, and so Concord grapes, figs and stone fruit were brought out that night as part of the dessert course.
The conversation: The building itself sparked many discussions. Guests compared their relative familiarity with its less-trafficked spaces, noted changes to the house and to the neighborhood and recalled advice dispensed by the artist himself in particular rooms on particular nights. The designer and architect Bill Katz remembered Judd’s telling him it was important to “have a place to go” outside of the city, which was the reason Katz bought land in New Mexico. Indeed, questions about the American West surfaced again and again, most frequently, “Have you been to Marfa?”
An entertaining tip: “The best meals,” Rainer said, are “made with heart and hands.” As much as possible, she shops for ingredients at small-scale local suppliers, which in New York means places like Raffetto’s, Russ & Daughters and Murray’s Cheese. “Befriend farmers, bakers, pasta makers, sausage makers, cheese makers and dairy farmers,” she said. “It makes your life and your family’s life richer.”