Property peep show: Edgar Oliver's Lower East Side art loft

Take a tour inside the poet, playwright and performer’s abode, filled to the brim with life-size portraits and peculiar collectibles

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  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    Poet, playwright and performer Edgar Oliver inhabited the top floor of an East 10th Street townhouse for 35 years until it was sold two-and-a-half years ago. In exchange, his landlord offered up a downtown pad for the same rent and Oliver realized his dream of moving to the Lower East Side. "The original apartment was half the size," recalls Oliver. "I said I would consider moving if they gave me the entire second floor, and they took down the walls for me." His circular-shaped one-bedroom houses his enormous art collection.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    After their mother passed away, Oliver and his sister, Helen Oliver Adelson, inherited an array of luggage. Performance artist Hapi Phace, a friend of Oliver’s, made him the yellow papier-mâché suitcase (at the top of the pile) to add to his collection.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    "I was thrift shopping and that was in the window," says Oliver of an old-fashioned toy register he scored from Vintage Thrift. "I bid $15 and won." It sits beside a vintage Obscura lamp atop a side table found in a vacant lot on Houston Street.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    "I posed for that when we were living on 10th Street," says Oliver of a life-size nude that his sister painted in 1978.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    Artist Brian Damage gave Oliver this creation. "He was squatting in the basement apartment on 10th Street," explains Oliver, "and there was an old drop-leaf desk that he made into a castle with a shell of foam core."

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    "Helen made the face and hair when she was five years old," Oliver notes nostalgically of his sister’s childhood Alice in Wonderland doll. "In a way, that might be her earliest sculptural portrait.” It sits alongside his Raggedy Andy and another doll made in the likeness of friend and beat writer Herbert Huncke.

  • Photograph: Rayon Richards

    Helen painted two large portraits of Oliver that now hang above his mattress bed. "The ceiling on 10th Street fell and it tore that gash in it,” he says of the one depicting him drinking red wine (left).

Photograph: Rayon Richards

Poet, playwright and performer Edgar Oliver inhabited the top floor of an East 10th Street townhouse for 35 years until it was sold two-and-a-half years ago. In exchange, his landlord offered up a downtown pad for the same rent and Oliver realized his dream of moving to the Lower East Side. "The original apartment was half the size," recalls Oliver. "I said I would consider moving if they gave me the entire second floor, and they took down the walls for me." His circular-shaped one-bedroom houses his enormous art collection.


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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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