National Arts Club

Coordinates: 40°44′16.1″N 73°59′11.8″W / 40.737806°N 73.986611°W / 40.737806; -73.986611
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National Arts Club
Formation1893; 131 years ago (1893)
PurposePromotions of the Arts
Coordinates40°44′16.1″N 73°59′11.8″W / 40.737806°N 73.986611°W / 40.737806; -73.986611
Region served
United States
Official language
AffiliationsNational Arts Club

The National Arts Club is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and members club on Gramercy Park, Manhattan, New York City. It was founded in 1898 by Charles DeKay, an art and literary critic of the New York Times, to "stimulate, foster, and promote public interest in the arts and to educate the American people in the fine arts". The National Arts Club has several art galleries, and hosts a variety of public programs in all artistic areas including theater, literature and music. Although the club is private, many of its events are free and open to the public.[1]



Placard on the exterior of the building.

A group of friends, all of them involved in architecture, art, or civic affairs, discussed the possibility of a new kind of club that would embrace all the arts. The establishment of the Club came at a time when American artists were increasingly turning to their own nation rather than exclusively to Europe as a center of work and creativity. Significantly, the club would offer full membership for women at the onset, reflecting their accomplishment in the arts.[2]

While the group was working out an organizational plan, Charles DeKay, the literary and art critic of the New York Times for 18 years, returned from a diplomatic post abroad. An inspired organizer and entrepreneur, he sent letters to men and women of importance in the New York area as well as in metropolitan areas across the country. The response was so enthusiastic that the club was able to apply to Albany for its charter in 1898. With the application went a list of the officers, Board of Trustees, and members totaling more than 1200.

The list included such collectors as Henry Frick, William T. Evans, Benjamin Altman, Jules Bache and Henry Walters. Though not a charter member, J. Pierpont Morgan joined the Club early in its development and later was made an Honorary Vice President. Among the artists of the period, earlier charter members, or those joined in the early days of the club were Frederic Remington, William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, and George Bellows.

The club's first home was a brownstone on West 34th Street. Commerce, meanwhile, was moving up from downtown, and the neighborhood of brownstones was changing.

20th century[edit]

Because it accepted both men and women, the club was a rousing success and its tight quarters on 34th street could barely keep up with the demand for new membership. [3]

Spencer Trask, the club's treasurer, was asked to find the club a new home. He found that 14 and 15 Gramercy Park South, the former home of Samuel Tilden, was on the market. Legend has it that he was so afraid that some other buyer would also find it that he put down some money of his own to bind the bargain. In 1906, the club acquired the Samuel J. Tilden House.

Throughout the 20th century, the club was primarily noted for its exhibits, with a few controversies arising from some of its shows. In 1905, the club displayed a sculpture of Aphrodite that purported to be from ancient Rome.[4] Critics were quick to deride the statue as a fake,[5] placing it as a work that came from a much later era. In 1922, "Nude Girl with a Shawl" (now known as "Nude with White Shawl"), a painting by George Bellows, offended the audience of the time, who considered it immoral.[6]

21st century[edit]

The early 21st century was marked by financial crisis and a decade-long feud between the club's president and its board [7] that eventually led to the expulsion of the long-running president and settlement of state charges against him by the New York State Attorney General's Office.[8]

In 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the club renovated parts of its building to allow for the opening of new galleries.[9]


Initial clubhouse[edit]

The initial clubhouse was noted for its tea rooms and the fact that it allowed both men and women to commingle. However, with a growing membership, the club was forced to find a new home. It initially purchased a building next door to the original clubhouse but, in 1906, the club found an opportunity to move into a new space: the Samuel Tilden Mansion.

Samuel Tilden Mansion[edit]

Since 1906 the organization has occupied the Samuel J. Tilden House, a landmarked Victorian Gothic Revival[10] brownstone at 15 Gramercy Park, next door to The Players, a club with similar interests. The Tilden House was designated a New York City landmark in 1966,[11] and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.[12][13][14] It is located in the Gramercy Park Historic District.

The new clubhouse, which opened its doors in 1906,[15] was initially designed with a billiard room and a parlor on the ground floor, and reading rooms and smoking rooms on the 1st floor. The 2nd floor was purely focused on team rooms for female members.


During the 2006 restoration of the Tilden mansion's stoop, the Brazilian New York City artist Sergio Rossetti Morosini has now sculpted a bust of Michelangelo above the front door on the building's façade.[16]

The Bust of Michelangelo, sculpted by New York City Artist Sergio Rossetti Morosini
The west parlor of The National Arts Club.

Permanent collection[edit]

As of 2019, the club holds a permanent collection of 660 works of art including paintings, sculptures, and other works on paper. Artists represented in the collection include Daniel Putnam Brinley, Charles Courtney Curran, Daniel Garber, Philip Leslie Hale, Gari Melchers, William McGregor Paxton, Robert Spencer, Harry Willson Watrous, Robert Vonnoh, Everett Longley Warner, Robert Henri, Homer Boss, F. Luis Mora, Eugene Speicher, Jerry Farnsworth, Lamarr Dodd, Birge Harrison, Paul Cornoyer, Malvina Hoffman, Anna Hyatt Huntington, Lee Lawrie, Paul Manship, Victor Brenner, Will Barnet, Chen Chi, Peter Cox, Gary Erbe, Diana Kan, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Greg Wyatt, Carlos Quintana, Kendall Shaw, and Lois Dodd.

In keeping with its goal of supporting research in American art, the club frequently loans works from the collection to scholarly exhibitions presented by institutions and galleries such as the Florence Griswold Museum; the Thomas Walsh Gallery, Fairfield University; the Trout Gallery, Dickinson College; the Society of Illustrators, New York; and Berry-Hill Galleries, New York.[17]

Public programs[edit]


The club produces over 150 free public events per year, allowing the general public to get a broader understanding of the arts, in categories like Architecture, Archeology, Painting, Writing, Performance Arts and more.[18]


The club hosts a rotating series of public art exhibitions in its galleries.[19] Works by Pablo Picasso, Joan Míro, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Lissa Rivera, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and many other renowned artists have been featured in the space.

Voices of Soho Participating Artists at The National Arts Club

In December 2020, the Club presented Voices of the Soho Renaissance, the first exhibition of artwork born out of the calls for social justice which transformed New York City's Soho neighborhood, following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.[20] The show was followed by What Happened This Summer: ART2HEART, a second exhibition exploring the topic.[21]


Since its inception, the club has offered a number of art classes, some open specifically to members and others open to the general public. Classes include drawing, pastel, cooking, and writing classes, often taught by club members who are professionals on the topic.

The Medal of Honor[edit]

Beginning in 1906, the National Arts Club started awarding the "NAC Medal of Honor" to recognize individuals who had made unique contribution to the arts field. The medal is awarded on a yearly basis and has recognized people in Fashion, acting, literature, music, and architecture.

Other societies within the club[edit]

Several smaller groups have existed within the National Arts Club:[22]


Requirements for membership[edit]

From its very early days, the club differed from other social clubs. At its founding, the New York Times remarked: "This club differs from the others in several ways, especially in the fact that it has a very serious purpose, namely to encourage the arts side of American manufactures. On its social side, it presents an innovation in club life. It offers equal privileges to women, and has already over a hundred members of the gentler sex." [28]

The club now has about 2,000 members who come from both the art world or are supporters of the arts. Members work in committees to organize events and exhibits that are available for free to the general public.

One of the unusual benefits of membership it that the club allows members access to a Gramercy Park key.

Reciprocal clubs[edit]

The National Arts Club has reciprocities with clubs in other cities such as Lisbon, London and Spain, where members can go stay when they are traveling abroad.[29]

Here's the list of clubs they have agreements with: [30]

Club City State
The Arts Club of Louisville Louisville KY
The Arts Club of Washington Washington DC
DACOR Bacon House Washington DC
The Cliff Dwellers Club Chicago IL
The Cosmos Club Washington DC
Grosse Point Club Grosse Point Farms MI
The Lenox Club Lenox MA
Philadelphia Art Alliance Philadelphia PA
Providence Art Club Providence RI
St. Botolph Club Boston MA
The Salmagundi Club New York, NY NY
The Metropolitan Club San Francisco CA
Jonathan Club Los Angeles CA
The Union, university & Schools Club of Sydney Sydney Australia
The Arts and Letters Club Toronto Ontario, Canada
Saint James's Club of Montreal Montréal QC Canada
The Arts Club London England
The Arts Club Dubai UAE
Chelsea Arts Club London England
The Century Club London England
The Groucho Club London England
Sloane Club London England
The Travellers Club London England
Gleneagles Townhouse Edinburgh Scotland
Glasgow Art Club Glasgow Scotland
The United Arts Club Dublin Ireland
El Círculo del Liceo La Rambla Barcelona Spain
Círculo Eça de Queiroz Lisboa Portugal
Club Lusitano Central Hong Kong

Notable people[edit]


The National Arts Club is one of the few private clubs that has admitted women as full and equal members since its inception.

Among the distinguished painters who have been members are Robert Henri, Leon Dabo, Edward Charles Volkert, Frederic Remington, William Merritt Chase, Richard C. Pionk, Chen Chi, Larry Rivers, Louise Upton Brumback, Cecilia Beaux, Will Barnet, Everett Raymond Kinstler, and Michael Cheval. Sculptors have been represented by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Daniel Chester French, Anna Hyatt Huntington and Paul Manship. Many renowned literary figures, including Robert William Service in 1910, W. H. Auden, Mark Twain and Frank McCourt have been members. The National Arts Club is proud of its early recognition of new media art forms, like photography, film and digital media, and counts Alfred Stieglitz as one of its early members. Musicians Victor Herbert and Walter Damrosch were members, as were architects Stanford White, George B. Post, and Downing Vaux. George B. Post served as the first President of the National Arts Club.

The membership of the National Arts Club has included three Presidents of the United States: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Dwight Eisenhower along with Senator William A. Clark.[31]

Recipients of the Medal of Honor[edit]

Since the early 1900s, the club has awarded its prestigious Medal of Honor to exemplary leaders in their artistic fields. Recipients of the award include WH Auden, Anthony Burgess, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, Allen Ginsberg, John Updike, Marguerite Yourcenar, Iris Murdoch, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, Arthur Miller, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Nadine Gordimer, Tom Wolfe, Chinua Achebe, Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates, Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, John Ashbery, Leonard Bernstein, Alice Tully, Avery Fisher, Amyas Ames and the New York Philharmonic, Frederica von Stade, Benny Goodman, Isaac Stern, James Levine, Plácido Domingo, Itzhak Perlman, Paddy Moloney, Byron Janis, Ilse Bing, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, John Szarkowski, Inge Morath, George Kalinsky, R. Buckminster Fuller, I.M. Pei, Daniel Libeskind, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, Robert A. Stern, Eleanor Roosevelt, Salvador Dalí, Chen Chi, Louise Nevelson, Stewart Klonis and The Art Students League, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Rauschenberg, Will Barnet, Christo, Roy Lichtenstein, Dale Chihuly, Chuck Close, James Turrell, James Moody, Ed Ruscha, Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Dreyfuss, John Turturro, Lynn Redgrave, Olympia Dukakis, Ang Lee, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Claire Bloom, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Field, Jack O'Brien, Paul Auster, William Ivey Long, Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Anna Sui.[32]

In popular culture[edit]

Over the years, The National Arts Club has been used for several prominent film and television productions (see partial list below).[33]

The location has also been featured in numerous prominent photo shoots, TV interviews, and fashion shows, including Steven Klein photographing Kim Kardashian for Interview Magazine.

TV shows[edit]



Arts shown at the National Arts Club has been the topic of many books.

  • A Legacy of Art: Paintings and Sculptures by Artist Life Members of the National Arts Club
  • A Realist View: Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture By 11 Americans - May 1 Through May 21, 1961 at the National Arts Club
  • The National Arts Club Sketchbook
  • Aye Simon: A Retrospective


  1. ^ "Home". National Arts Club. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  2. ^ "National Arts Club". Hathi Trust Digital Library. Harper's Weekly. April 2, 1898. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  3. ^ "National Arts Club: Additional Quarters to House its increasing membership - Women have all priviledges". New York Times Time Machine. December 2, 1900. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  4. ^ "APHRODITE AT THE ARTS - Experts Surprised at the Beauty of Mr. Frederick Linton's Statue". New York Times Time Machine. February 19, 1905. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  5. ^ "APHRODITE'S ANTIQUITY ATTACKED BY EXPERTS". New York Times Time Machine. February 26, 1905. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  6. ^ "ART CLUB TO HEAR PROTEST ON NUDE". New York Times Time Machine. February 7, 1922. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  7. ^ "A Genteel Fellowship Turns Fractious; Money Matters Are Questioned At the National Arts Club". New York Times. June 1, 2001. Retrieved June 29, 2023. "In a Club Fight, Power, Ego and Real Estate". New York Times. February 16, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  8. ^ "National Arts Club Ex-President Settles Suit and Agrees to Pay $950,000". New York Times. July 10, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  9. ^ Ludell, Wallace (January 26, 2021). "National Arts Club in New York opens new galleries renovated during the pandemic". New York Times. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  10. ^ "National Arts Club Designation Report" New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (March 15, 1966)
  11. ^ New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S.; Postal, Matthew A. (2009). Postal, Matthew A. (ed.). Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1., p.86
  12. ^ "Samuel J. Tilden House". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  13. ^ ""Samuel J. Tilden House", September 1975, by Cathy A. Alexander (National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination)" (pdf). National Park Service. September 1975.
  14. ^ "Samuel J. Tilden House--Accompanying 2 photos, exterior, from 1975 (National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination)" (pdf). National Park Service. September 1975.
  15. ^ "National Arts Club Opens its New House". New York Times Time Machine. November 9, 1906. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  16. ^ "The Facade Project". National Arts Club. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
  17. ^ "The Collection". National Arts Club. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  18. ^ "National Arts Club says 'oui' to David Doty as new president". The Village Sun. June 1, 2022. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  19. ^ "Exhibitions". National Arts Club. Retrieved April 30, 2021.
  20. ^ Minsky, Tequila (January 6, 2021). "Soho street artists exhibiting and continuing to make art | amNewYork". amNewYork. Retrieved April 30, 2021.
  21. ^ "Remnants Of Last Summer's Violence Following Death Of George Floyd Turned Into Art As Reminder Of Troubling Time". CBS New York. March 9, 2021. Retrieved April 30, 2021.
  22. ^ "National Arts Club records, 1898-1960", "Historical Note", Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, [1]
  23. ^ Who's Who in America, 1913, ss.vv.
  24. ^ a b Wendy Wick Reaves, "Marius de Zayas: Spotlight on Personality", chapter 4 of Celebrity Caricatures in America, 1998, ISBN 0300074638, p. 74
  25. ^ David Nasaw, Andrew Carnegie, 2007, ISBN 1101201797, p. 697
  26. ^ Who's Who in America, 1914, s.v. Alexander Harvey, p. 1053
  27. ^ Harvard University Libraries, catalog record
  28. ^ "The National Arts Club" (PDF). New York Times Time Machine. October 31, 1899. Retrieved June 29, 2023. This club differs from the others in several ways, especially in the fact that it has a very serious purpose, namely to encourage the arts side of American manufactures. On its social side, it presents an innovation in club life. It offers equal privilege to women, and has already over a hundred members of the gentler sex.
  29. ^ Zamboli, Sofia (January 26, 2021). "The National Arts Club, Pioneering Gender Inclusivity, Honoring Art and Fine Cuisine". La Voce di New York. VNI. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  30. ^ "List of clubs with reciprocal agreements with the National Arts Club". National Arts Club. Retrieved June 29, 2023.
  31. ^ Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of an American Fortune by Bill Dedman. Ballatine Books Sep 2103
  32. ^ "History". National Arts Club. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  33. ^ Johnson, Kirk (February 10, 1998). "Film's Rising Star: New York; Independent Movies Spur the City's Celluloid Success". New York Times. Retrieved June 29, 2023.

External links[edit]