Unlike his counterparts in the real estate development industry, where profit margin was, is, and forever the core to their businesses, Tony Goldman saw himself, first and foremost, as a builder instead. During a 2000 interview with The New York Times, Goldman said “Developers are knock ’em down, build ’em up guys. That’s not me.” Instead, he became a visionaire of sort in the possibility of long forsaken neighborhoods like New York City’s SoHo.
Once brimful with manufacturing businesses, SoHo was just a shell of its former self by the 1970s, with boarded up buildings and crime ridden streets. Goldman saw otherwise and started its transformation. By preserving not just SoHo’s buildings, its quirky atmosphere, but also attracting more artist-centric residents, Goldman in effect created New York City’s first unofficial art district in its modern history. Success was such that the developer turned preservationist applied the same formula to the Miami’s South Beach during 1980s, Philadelphia and New York City’s Financial District in 1990s, and most recently the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, which is now brimmed with artist studios and galleries.
A consummate insider of the contemporary art world as well as a partner to artists and gallerists like Jeffrey Deitch, Goldman knew art’s transformative effect. Around 2008, he tackled his most popularized project to date with a concrete wall remnant at the corner of Bowery and East Houston Street. Now known as the Bowery Mural, the public art space re-introduced a bit of SoHo’s former grittiness with works from artists Os Gemeos, Kenny Scharf, Barry McGee, Shepard Fairey, RETNA, FAILE (seen here), and the current work by Aiko.
An artist in his own, Tony Goldman passed away last Tuesday of heart failure at the age of 68. In a short statement by his family, they wrote, “To the community he touched, he was a transforming, once-in-a-lifetime figure. To us, he was a devoted husband, wonderful father, and doting grandfather.” He’s survived by his wife Janet, his son Joey, daughter Jessica, and Goldman Properties, the firm he built.
Photography by Poe for Freshness