There’s an Art Exhibit at the Noyes House in Connecticut Worth Getting on the Waitlist For

Michael Biondo

A mid-century beauty opens to the public for the first time, and it’s stocked with new art and design.

The Noyes House is one of those mid-century homes that wind up in coffee-table books and on Pinterest mood boards. With its floor-to-ceiling windows, flagstone walls, and asymmetrical lines, it’s emblematic of the cluster of great houses in New Canaan, Connecticut, a hot spot of swingy, high-design modernist living in the 1950s. Residents of this bedroom community included a significant number of art directors and similar aesthetes — including the industrial designer and architect Eliot Noyes, famous for the IBM Selectric typewriter, who built this house in 1955 for his family. Right now, members of the public can visit and tour the house for the first time ever, thanks to the new art and design exhibition At The Noyes House, presented by the uptown galleries Blum & Poe and Mendes Wood DM, and Object & Thing, a design and art fair now in its second year.

 Michael Biondo
The painting above the mantel is Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (Capri 53.16) (2020); the red vase is Gaetano Pesce’s Large Red Pebble Vase (2016); the two small vessels on the table are Jim McDowell’s Madison Washington (2017) and Love Trumps Hate (2019); the other piece on the table is Lynda Benglis’s AMAXA, (2013). The chairs, coffee table, and giraffe sculpture are all original.

The nearby Glass House, Philip Johnson’s weekend-home compound, has been open to the public (in a limited way) for years. The Noyes House, by contrast, is still in the original family’s hands. Over the years, they’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it, including turning it into a corporate retreat and center for design events. Last year, the Connecticut Trust for Preservation signed an easement to help ensure that the building’s original intent is maintained. While much of the modernist artwork that Noyes collected has been donated to museums — including MoMA, where he was the first-ever director of industrial design — a lot of the original furnishings are still in place. The art exhibition, in some ways, brings the house back to its original spirit.

 Michael Biondo
In the dining area, Faye Toogood’s Maquette 061 / Clay Seat Tapestry (2020) hangs above the pass-through to the kitchen; Hugo França, Guasca V Stool (2017) is to the right of the dining table. On the tabletop are Gaetano Pesce’s Drip Vase (2020); Toogood’s Moon Vase / Rubber (2019/2020); and a set of Mexican clay pieces by Johnny Ortiz.

“We were living with art; it wasn’t precious,” says Frederick Noyes, an architect and Eliot Noyes’s son, in a video tour of the exhibition. “It wasn’t, ‘Oh, it had to be this height and it had to famous and it had to be signed.’ It was the informality, the accessibility, the sense that this is part of us, rather than something you gave reverence to.”

When you walk up to the house, you’re met by ring-shaped sculptures by Hugo França. Through the courtyard, you’ll pass a wavy, totemic piece by Alma Allen and a wooden table and deck chairs by Green River Project LLC. In the living room, with its original Brazilian modern chairs and table, you’ll find vessels by Gaetano Pesce and potter Jim McDowell. A painting by Mark Grotjahn hangs over the mantel. It’s almost hard to tell where the original furnishings start and the exhibition begins.

 Michael Biondo
In the bedroom, find Gaetano Pesce’s Drip Vase (2020) on a sitting atop a wood sculpture by Alma Allen; Megumi Arai’s Large bedspread (2020) covers the bed; Antonio Obá, Wade in the water II (2020) hangs on the wall; Frances Palmer’s, vase (2020) and Pesce’s, Tube Vase (2020) are on the bedside table.

In an essay accompanying the show, Glenn Adamson, an independent curator and former director of the Museum of Arts and Design writes: “In 1958, Noyes commented that aesthetic objects can ‘best be enjoyed in a house designed to bring art and their daily lives into as close daily contact possible.’ He created just such a place, and that sense of contact is still alive and well: a modern story, with a fairytale ending.” One you can get to on the 5:02 p.m. from Grand Central.

Reservations are all booked up, but you can sign up for the waitlist here.

 Michael Biondo
The tall totem is Alma Allen’s Not Yet Titled (2020) and the deck chairs are by Green River Project LLC.