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Charles Simonds


Not on view



Clay, sand, sticks, stones, wood, plaster, cloth and chicken wire

Overall (component a): 17 3/4 × 39 1/2 × 29in. (45.1 × 100.3 × 73.7 cm) Overall (component b): 10 3/8 × 29 3/8 × 7 3/4in. (26.4 × 74.6 × 19.7 cm) Overall (component c): 8 × 29 × 13 3/4in. (20.3 × 73.7 × 34.9 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Louis and Bessie Adler Foundation, Inc., Seymour M. Klein, President

Rights and reproductions
© Charles Simonds/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Charles Simonds’s Dwellings are miniature buildings and ritual spaces for an imagined population of what he calls Little People. First created in the early 1970s as tiny, impermanent constructions in the nooks and crannies of New York neighborhoods, Simonds’s Dwellings later developed into permanent clay works situated in museums. With this three-part installation, commissioned by the Whitney in 1981, Simonds challenges the notion of a work of art as a discrete and precious object and confronts traditional boundaries between the museum and the outside world. The most accessible element of the work, nestled in one of the Breuer building’s stairwell landings, is positioned above a window that looks out on the other two components; these are situated in visual proximity on a second-story windowsill and a rooftop chimney of the building across the street at 940 Madison Avenue. By placing these three clusters of dwellings in visual proximity, Simonds suggests a progression of habitation and abandonment by his fictional nomads and slyly reminds viewers to look beyond museum walls.

The 2015 re-installation of the work at 940 Madison Avenue is made possible by Khedouri Ezair and Ardalan Lahijani, in honor of Menashi Ezair and Mehdi Lahijani