Nobody could be happier than Ligia Builes when she was able to purchase a modern remake of the classic Edward Hopper painting “East Wind Over Weehawken” earlier this month. That’s because nobody else can claim to own the white home prominently featured in the painting.
Back in 1934, popular American artist Edward Hopper painted a street corner in Weehawken, the corner of 49th Street and Boulevard East. Recently, Christie’s auction house put his painting on sale, selling it for $40 million.
Seeing an opportunity to raise money for the Weehawken PTPO, Weehawken resident and comedian Susie Felber commissioned a modern version of the painting from her friend, Brooklyn-based painter Stephen Gardner. While the original version of the scene from the Depression is rendered in dark, earthy tones, the modern version lightens the mood by including new flourishes like flowers and satellite dishes.
The original, considered by Hopper to be one of his best works, was expected to fetch at least $23 million. In the end it went to an anonymous telephone bidder who paid a record amount for Hopper.
Builes, meanwhile, acquired her treasure for considerably less, taking home the Gardner version for $510 from eBay.
The perfect home
A computer programmer by trade, the colorful and energetic Builes originally found out about the modern version by chance. “A neighbor of mine sent me an e-mail to the link because I already knew that [the original] was going to be auctioned.” Builes immediately fell in love with the Gardner painting. “I said, Oh my God, that is so beautiful, I hope I can get it.”
“This house has such good energy. I just love it.” – Ligia Builes
With the auction ending at 3 a.m., Builes entered her bid and went to sleep. “I was so happy when I found out I did get it,” she said. “I think it’s the best home for this. I don’t think anybody’s going to love it as much as I do. And I think it’s just a perfect home for this painting.”
The house got me
The gabled house at 1001 Boulevard East with the wide porch was built over 100 years ago, according to Builes. Facing the sunrise, it overlooks Port Imperial, just above the ferry terminal, with a stunning view of Manhattan. Builes has owned the building for nine years now.
“I always wanted to live here on Boulevard East,” said Builes, a native of Colombia. “Always. I would just walk around and look at the houses that were for sale. And then my brothers, everybody had bought a house already. There’s 10 of us, and everybody had a house except me. Because I was waiting to get a house here.”
Eventually she reluctantly gave up and began looking elsewhere, at which point the house appeared on the market. “It was just the perfect opportunity.”
Each of the three floors is a separate apartment, with Builes renting out the lower two and living at the top in a cozy one-bedroom with tastefully ornate furnishings and a wall of windows facing the city.
“I try to have a theme for each floor,” she said. “This one I want to be classical. When I get a chance I want to make it a Moroccan style because I love Moroccan, I love the colors. The second floor, it’s decorated all Oriental. And then the first floor is like a little bit of everything.”
“I used to travel a lot before I got the house,” Builes said. “But then I got the house… Actually, the house got me.”
Builes has already picked the position of honor in her living room where she intends to display her new purchase alongside a print of Hopper’s original. “This house has such good energy,” said the proud owner. “I just love it.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.