ew York’s 260 West Broadway in Tribeca has been a home for a lot of things. Traders bought and sold wool here in the first part of 20th century. Then artists took over in early 1970s, some of them even balancing themselves in an aerial act beneath the rotunda on the top floor (see photos below). The building ended up being converted to condo apartments in 1981, and each of the units was equipped with “a computer terminal hooked up to a data bank”—whatever that meant at the time.
Even though the fate of the major part of the building was sealed during the conversion, the street level retail space was left almost untouched. After the conversion, the original trading space for the New York Wool Exchange Company on the ground floor served as a pop-up gallery, a restaurant and later as storage: all before being “rediscovered” as a potential apartment.
Space was bought by Mark Colaio, a senior managing director at a financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, and his wife either for $150,000 in June 1998 or for $1,734,000 in June 2001 (it is unclear due to incomplete document scans on nyc.gov).
In 2001 architects Todd Ernst and Frank Servidio started to work on the space and soon found a mural by Keith Haring hidden beneath a coat of paint and the AC equipment. The Keith Haring Foundation confirmed the authenticity of the mural. It is believed that the mural was made in 1979 when Keith Haring was part of a group exhibition at the School of Visual Arts where he was studying painting.
Ernst said to New York Magazine: “The fact that it actually survived is amazing. It’s next to a sprinkler pipe and it’s made of shoe polish and alcohol, and it’s water soluble.”
Mark Colaio died in the 9/11 attack.
It is unclear when the work on the 7,500-square-foot triplex was finished. But in June 2007 it was listed on the market for $16 million. Besides the mural, the apartment has 2 bedrooms, 3,5 bathrooms, 45 by 45 feet ballroom with 25 foot high ceilings, a wine cellar and a gourmet kitchen.
Because the artwork cannot be detached from the wall and resold, it doesn’t add much value to the apartment. While talking about it, Lee Summers of Sotheby’s International Realty mused:“It’s probably [adds] another $100,000. It’s valueless except for the person who lives there.”
There aren’t many pictures of the mural from the time when it was initially discovered, but I managed to find a couple:
Richard Saunders, who was among investors that bought the apartment in April 2006 for $4,5 million, said about the mural: “We thought it was something that needed to be preserved, but we didn’t know how to. The more we spoke to people, the more different the options were. Some wanted to actually add to it, others wanted to plexiglass it, but it was all too scary for me.”
In fact, the “others” in this quote is The Keith Haring Foundation which indeed recommended that the entire section is covered with a plexiglass screen.
The executive director of The Keith Haring Foundation, Julia Gruen, said to The New York Sun in 2007: “This was a project that Keith did use the space… He was barely at the beginning of his career, a college student.”
She added that the work is consistent with his early experimentation with abstract pattern making. “It’s the same alphabet of images… But the work became more graphically direct later in his career.” She summarized with a prediction for the future: “Now we hope it will be valuable to whoever purchases the apartment.”
But apparently it wasn’t.
As you can see in the pictures above the owners had taken their liberties with the mural by incorporating it into the loft’s interior and therefore finishing Keith Haring’s piece for him. It is still beautiful and decorative, but its value for posterity is arguable. And so is the value of the loft for NYC’s history.
But that’s not the whole story of the property. As I dug deeper I discovered that in addition to the cultural heritage, there is also some criminal history to the loft.
Originally listed for $16.995 million in 2007 the property last exchanged hands in 2014 for $10 million. The buyer was Jason Galanis, and since his purchase, he had been convicted of numerous crimes.
His latest “achievement”: being sentenced to “173 months for defrauding a Native American tribal entity and numerous pension fund investors of tens of millions of dollars in connection with the issuance of bonds by the tribal entity” — according to justice.gov
His loft at 260 West Broadway had unpaid common charges for the sum of $96,943.22 as of December 2016. According to the court order, it was authorized to be seized and sold by the government to pay for outstanding mortgage, taxes and other related debts.
So now it is up for grabs for $8.49 million. Despite the lowered price, I’m pretty sure it’s not going anywhere soon. In addition to its legal complications, the apartment is essentially a two bedroom with a monthly tax bill of $20,200. So if you want to see the butchered Keith Haring, there will probably be numerous open houses in the property before someone finally decides to buy it.
PS: Here is a list of Keith Haring’s artworks available for public viewing in NYC.
This article originally appeared on Medium @kosnyrev
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