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Photography by Evan Sung

Lofty Ambition

by Devyn Jorgensen | Manhattan magazine | December 27, 2011

When Gloria and Raymond Naftali bought the 156,000-square-foot Wolff Building from a book manufacturer in 1974, they wanted to fill the space with creative types. Inside at 508 W. 26th St, today, a lunch break doubles as an art-viewing session, and it’s no biggie to knock on a neighbor’s door for monofilament line. The energy emanating from this Chelsea artists’ haven is evident to onlookers, so take a moment to meet the people behind all that glass.

12th Floor
Marek and Associates

The soft-spoken owner of this 35-year-old photo and creative agency, Marek Milewicz, says his biggest challenge is maintaining professionalism when “working relationships become like a marriage.” Of course, there’s an upside to forging cozy ties with clients: Black-and-white images by Deborah Turbeville (Milewicz’s first client), Chadwick Tyler and Hilary Walsh, among others, adorn the studio walls, two of which are covered in graffiti by artists/friends Jordan Betten and Glenn O’Brien.

11th Floor
Hiroshi Sugimoto Studio

Four massive, 16-by-8-foot windows allow abundant natural light to pour into this art studio, but for the celebrated Japanese photographer, privacy is paramount. Represented by the Pace Gallery, which in late 2011 hosted a major exhibition of Sugimoto’s conceptual sculptures, the artist commands upward of $300,000 apiece.

10th Floor
The Raymond Naftali Center

The most noncreative office in the edifice is this group medical practice, founded in 2007. Named after the late husband of art patron Gloria Naftali, who still owns the building, the center focuses on neurology, diabetes and pediatrics.

9th Floor
K/R Architects

John Keenen, a partner in K/R Architects, has a bright-green wall in his office from which hangs a map of Murcia, Spain, the location of a 100-acre sculpture park his firm is designing. A team since their days at Columbia University, Keenen and partner Terry Riley have been designing galleries, private residences, institutional spaces and interiors for 27 years. Their next project is an architecture and design museum in Hangzhou, China.

8th Floor
Greene Naftali Gallery

The staff here keeps this space simple, and for good reason. Their roster of artists includes Harun Farocki, who projects images onto the gallery’s white walls; Jim Drain, whose brightly colored, large-scale sculptural installations produce a vibrant, psychedelic effect; and Allen Ruppersberg, who, in his most recent exhibition, turned the gallery into an Alice in Wonderland-esque landscape.

7th Floor
Andrew Zuckerman

Zuckerman, a self-proclaimed artist/filmmaker/writer, created the acclaimed photo book/documentary film Wisdom, which spotlights 50 extraordinary people over the age of 65, from Buzz Aldrin to Dame Judi Dench. How did the 34-year-old globetrotter get all these heavyweights involved? By providing a letter on his behalf from Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Language Dept.
Behind the unpainted steel door sits one ficus tree and one graphic-design dream team responsible for the branding of the American Cancer Society, Kate Spade, Avon and many more. “The steam heat is too loud, and the windows leak,” laments Tanya Quick, who helms the operation. Still, her staff claims there is “no greener pasture” for creative professionals than the Wolff Building.

6th Floor
Thomas C. Card Photography

This Midwestern photographer has heavy-hitting clients like CoverGirl, Gucci, MAC, Pepsi and Evian.

De La Torre Design Studio
In stark contrast to the neighboring white-box spaces, interior designer Ernest de la Torre’s 800-square-foot studio is cluttered with textiles and custom pieces from his collection. But with its view of the High Line below and the “New Yorker” hotel sign above, the space makes up in inspiration what it lacks in relative size.