Welcome to the ‘Hood: Tribeca Project Space


tps1-by-asha-agnish-for-tribeca-citizentps2-by-asha-agnish-for-tribeca-citizenIt stands to reason that a building named Artisan Lofts might want art in its lobby, but the developer went a big step further, allowing the McNeill Art Group of Southampton, N.Y., to turn the lobby into a gallery, the Tribeca Project Space.

“Two of my clients had actually looked at apartments here,” says founder Beth McNeill (below right, at the gallery’s opening), “so I felt natually aligned.”

For McNeill, the gallery was a fantastic opportunity to show art in a different setting, to people who might have an affinity for art but not make it to galleries as often as they might like. The configuration—it’s actually an L-shaped hallway that leads to a small elevator lobby—means that residents will stroll through the gallery every time they enter or leave the building. McNeill says the response has been great: “As we were installing, residents were like, ‘Wow, thank you!’” And while the fact that it’s a residential building means that admission is by appointment only, there’s a chance that residents may be more likely to buy something they grow fond of, having seen it over and over.

Make no mistake: This isn’t standard lobby art. The opening exhibit, “Plastic, Rubber + Wood”—featuring works that incorporate those materials—includes pieces that won’t be to everyone’s taste, as well as one—Ji Yong-Ho’s For Elk 1, a two-headed ram bust made from used tires—that could be describe as aggressive. “Someone asked if I thought it might scare little kids,” says McNeill. “To be honest, I hope it will inspire something in people.” She smiles. “If I get a feeling they don’t like something I may want to introduce even more of it. I like to challenge people. I know people who think they only love figurative art, and then they fall for abstraction.”

tps3-by-asha-agnish-for-tribeca-citizentps4-by-asha-agnish-for-tribeca-citizenThe space will undoubtedly have its own challenges. During the press preview, a building maintenance worker was polishing the Formica background of Bob Schwarz’s Escape Velocity. Another piece, Esma Pacal-Turam’s Curtains, has two long panels of lacy silicone that seem like something a child might find irresistible to touch. (None of the art is cordoned off, unlike the painting in the lobby of 60 Warren, which is protected by a metal railing.) McNeill says that part of her deal with the building was that its insurance would cover any such damage to the artworks.

Born in Denver, McNeill grew up on Long Island, and after graduating from Southampton College, she did public relations for a gallery. Discovering that she enjoyed working with arists, she became a sort of manager. Artists liked that they didn’t have to worry about mailing lists, reaching out to galleries, and so on; galleries were grateful to deal with someone who was mindful of deadlines; clients liked the access. “At some point it made sense to start selling the art myself instead of to galleries,” she says.

The Tribeca Project Space is the latest in a series of alternative spaces where McNeill has shown art: In the Hamptons, those spaces have included warehouses, galleries, her own home, and even a tennis court. She hopes to mix things up more, getting non-art professionals who might have a discerning eye—designers, models, chefs—to help curate future shows. Fashion, in particular, is an interest. For the opening of “Plastic, Rubber + Wood,” McNeill wore a plastic, rubber, and wood outfit made for her by designer Alissa Smith.

The McNeill Art Group’s Tribeca Project Space is at 143 Reade St. (between Hudson and Greenwich). It’s open by appointment only (631-838-4843, mcneillartgroup.com). “Plastic, Rubber + Wood” will be up through January 25, 2010.

Photographs by Asha Agnish for Tribeca Citizen.


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