Pop-Ups, Property Promos and Pocket Paintings: New collaborations toride out the recession

Mixed media artist Rodney Durso, founder of Artbridge

Last week I found myself in a couple of small, personal Chelsea art events that signal the alternative ways art is being "done" these days - largely due to the economy.

The traditional way: An established gallery in a prime location which is never open Sundays, and in fact, shuts promptly at 6pm weekdays, thus winnowing out the artless tire kickers. Staff, of whom you see only the very top of their heads behind the high reception desk, basically ignore you if you wander in without an appointment, because they are busy dealing in cyberspace ... unless you're an art target of course.

The new way: slap up, pop up, art up. Let's look at three different "recession suppression" happenings I stumbled on in the same week:

Rodney Durso and Blair Bradshaw: Together Again Press Release

Blair Bradshaw flanked by "Burr" and "Hamilton"

Rodney Durso (NY) and Blair Bradshaw (SF) showed their work in a small pop-up space on 526 West 26th St orchestrated by Reaves Gallery.

As I understood it, Sharon Reaves, the gallery director, recently moved from San Francisco and is making her New York debut in this flexible and low-key manner: renting a space in an existing space. It makes sense - like a pop-up window on a website, you're invited in to step inside and click around, until the window closes. Next time, a different space, a different artist, a different gallery. But if someone liked the art, connection has been made; the popped-up space is now irrelevant. Especially the internet is a 24/7 zero-rent gallery space.

Rodney Durso is a mixed-media artist who mashes up the things he clearly loves - architecture, design, politics, graphics, intense color, community.  I met him while scarfing tiny little cookies at Three Tarts, the Oprah-favorited micro-desserterie he co-owns with his sister, Marla. We found we had a mutual background in advertising, and friended each other before there was this thing called Facebook.

A series of ArtBridge canvases beautifying the scaffolding in front of thevenerable London Terrace, Chelsea, NYC

Rodney also founded ArtBridge, a sustainable art innovation in itself: it commissions artists to do their darndest on otherwise uninspiring scaffolding, thus transforming the streetscape into an overhead, tree-level gallery. When it's time for the art to come down, it's made into sturdy and chic tote bags which are sold at Three Tarts among other places from around $32 and up. And who couldn't do with another sturdy, chic tote bag?

Detail of Blair Bradshaw's "Untitled (Hamilton)"
Now over to Blair: ever thought what fun lives artists must have, those who do the whimsical full-page magazine illustrations for articles about monkeys or oil spills or anti-depressants?  Blair Bradshaw is one of those lucky peeps, a graphic artist with creds including New Scientist, the NYT and Absolut Vodka. We all postured over his diptych depicting a speed-dying version of the Burr-Hamilton Duel. From Wiki:

Hamilton did fire his weapon intentionally, and he fired first. But he aimed to miss Burr, sending his ball into the tree above and behind Burr's location. In so doing, he did not withhold his shot, but he did waste it, thereby honoring his pre-duel pledge. Meanwhile, Burr, who did not know about the pledge, did know that a projectile from Hamilton's gun had whizzed past him and crashed into the tree to his rear. According to the principles of the code duello, Burr was perfectly justified in taking deadly aim at Hamilton and firing to kill....

The panel features strips of stained wood neatly stamped with the death dates of both men, respectively. No, the wood was not from the tree above and behind Burr's location, but we all pretended it was ...

Art, furniture, real estate, action! 
Open house showing of a renovated studio with art exhibition
(Photo from www.reneefishman.com)

Staging an apartment to show it in its best light isn't new. But having an art exhibition with the gallery director,  interior designer and real estate agent all present and lubed with wine and crackers is a perfect example of a modern day real estate marketing mashup.

The apartment:  a $399K studio in the "post-war" Victoria building on East 14th Street.

The estate agent:  Renee Fishman for Halstead Property, was apparently awarded Rookie of the Year in her industry for her imaginative approaches to real estate marketing using social media - no doubt like this, and with her professionally shot video tours. The willowy Renee's commentary rolls off her tongue like melted butter on a piping hot scone that I devoured even though I'm not in the market right now for a new cave.

The interior designer: Stephen Alessi, whose name immediately evokes those amoebic stainless steel accoutrements from the famous design house on Manhattan metrosexual's wedding list.  He did a great job "on a tiny budget", showing what a difference a nice thick cream rug and a pair of Japanese-inspired curtains can do.

The gallery director:  Jessica Porter, of the enigmatically named RAANDESK.  She selected several art works for the apartment, with several benefits:

1. You get to see art as it might look in your own modest living room.
2. The apartment looks sharp, with any tattered Jim Morrison posters no doubt rolled out of sight in the broom cupboard
3. You get to know about another great gallery in Chelsea: Raandesk.

Seeing the three pros in one place gave the visitor plenty to do - admire the could-be-mine home, pick the interior designer's brains for the latest trends and file him away for a future project, and gaze upon some fresh new art that wasn't a series of lame, framed art gallery exhibition posters with the artist-date-time-location on the bottom.

And so,  from affordable caves (well, relatively) to affordable art (since this is Chelsea Gallerista):

Raandesk's selling point is its focus on affordable art - from $100-$5000. It even has a special section called Art2Gift - works under $500. You can actually select art from the site based on price range and other categories, like buying a rainjacket from REI.com. Even more amazingly, you can click a button to "make an offer" on several works.

Jessica is clearly thinking ahead, getting young art lovers into collecting and starting a lifelong and potentially profitable relationship with them. She's also opening things up for that people who might never have thought they could afford an original. Though I have zero room for art (as I lamented last post), I found myself again, seriously contemplating becoming the owner of not one but two works on the wall behind the carefully staged and plumped sofa. Someone hold me down!

Thanks to Marie Wiltz for introducing me to Renee and Raandesk.


Fragments by Ellen Shire - a perfect little pocket painting, at just 16cm x16 cm (just over 6" x 6") 

I mention these two artists in this post because I stumbled across their tiny little artworks quite by chance - a real recession suppression idea.

Ian Mack, who I met at the aforementioned Reaves show, is famous for his giant bold color field abstracts, but he also creates "emergency art".  Priced at around $100 each (update: now $50 as of 2014), they're tiny paintings about the size of a credit card.

"It's art to carry on your wallet," he says. "When you need an emergency art fix, just reach for you wallet [without emptying it]."

As you can see he's even doing little easels for them. None are shown on his site - you can try emailing him about his next showing.

Update: as of 2014 I'm the proud owner of this Ian Mack miniature

My "MiniMack" is a substitute for my favorite painting of his, "Big Lift," now in some lucky beach bungalow in Florida I hear... 

Big Lift, my favorite Ian Mack of all time 

I also stumbled across Ellen Shire, who divides her time between New York and France, some years ago at Chelsea Open Studios. She had this one tiny little painting - actually a paper mache collage that I wish I'd bought back then, because now, she can't seem to find it. She's produced some marvellous, wonderfully textural little works for somewhere around the $100 mark.

And wandering past Leo Kesting Gallery in the Meatpacking, I noticed the walls covered with tiny little paintings and constructions, some just over the size of coasters. I have no idea if they are for sale or if they're part of the interior decor, but they screamed "take me home in your pocket!"

I see a great market for art to wear, have and to hold, at a price more people can afford to have lots of.

Popular posts from this blog

Art Basel Miami: A first-timer's guidebook

Damien Hirst Spot Challenge: It's time to collect!

Street Art in West Chelsea: alive and ungentrified