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Robert Rauschenberg House

The two-story cathedral at the rear of 381 Lafayette Street can be seen from the parking garage on the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones by peering between layers of stacked cars. This address was a Catholic orphanage before Robert Rauschenberg bought it in 1963, envisioning it as a combination performance space, multimedia studio, political refuge and personal home. This location, certainly an improvement from the dingy Fulton Street quarters he shared with lover-collaborator Jasper Johns during...

The two-story cathedral at the rear of 381 Lafayette Street can be seen from the parking garage on the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones by peering between layers of stacked cars. This address was a Catholic orphanage before Robert Rauschenberg bought it in 1963, envisioning it as a combination performance space, multimedia studio, political refuge and personal home. This location, certainly an improvement from the dingy Fulton Street quarters he shared with lover-collaborator Jasper Johns during the 1950s, reflects the long-awaited commercial success Rauschenberg came to enjoy here. The spaciousness of 381 Lafayette allowed it to house rehearsals and, often, members of the cast of 9 Evenings, a collaborative effort between artists and engineers, which culminated in a series of happenings in 1966. In this building, scientists joined the posse of dancers with whom Rauschenberg and his friend, John Cage, the avant-guard musician, had been performing and socializing over the past five years. The concept for 9 Evenings had roots in 1950s optimism, its faith that science and progress belonged in the aesthetic experience. The engineers, mostly from the suburbs, were excited about the project but wary, at first, of the artists. Eventually, though, the famously charming Rauschenberg won them over and they began spending most nights in 381 Lafayette. A relative commercial success, the critical reaction to the product was mixed. The New York Times said of 9 Evenings, "If American engineers and technologists participating in the performance were typical of their profession, the Russians are sure to be first on the moon." Rauschenberg and John Cage had been more interested in the collaborative process than the product anyway. Ultimately, 381 Lafayette disappointed as the creative haven Rauschenberg envisioned at the time of its purchase. It became the site of out of control parties, one that resulted in a much-publicized gang rape, which no one had heard over the din. According to Rauschenberg, his collaborators were interested in being “personalities” and were losing sight of their original intentions. Though the personalities have mostly faded, the building itself is a symbol of their original intention: to realize the then-new concept that art is social.

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381 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012
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Stories in the spotlight: Robert Rauschenberg House

The two-story cathedral at the rear of 381 Lafayette Street can be seen from the parking garage on...

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Travelgoaters at Robert Rauschenberg House
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