New Kid on the Block: 81 Leonard Gallery

You can hardly call Nancy Pantirer a new kid on the block. She’s been making art at 81 Leonard for 23 years, albeit with the curtains drawn. It’s her partner, Elaine Mitchell, who convinced her to open a gallery in the space and, well, pull up the shades. It took a year of renovations to take what was a full-floor painting studio and convert it into a white box, but it’s now a striking, classic Tribeca gallery space on the north side of Leonard east of Church.

“It’s been wonderful, scary, frightening, exciting,” said Nancy, who has a robust career as a fine and commercial artist, making massive abstract canvases. “And I want to be with artists. I miss artists! Everyone has left the neighborhood, so I wanted to show work here – work that wasn’t being shown, work that mattered.”

Nancy started painting in ’78 in a studio on Franklin Street. But years later, married with two kids and making a mess of the family house in New Jersey, her husband told her to “go back to Tribeca,” and she found the Leonard Street space in 1996. She joined forces with Elaine a few years ago as she began to show her work in Japan, and it was really the younger partner who had the vision for the gallery and needled Nancy to do it.

Elaine, who is raising two kids in Bushwick, started her career in fashion but decided she liked artists better and taught herself to build frames and stretch canvases. She started digitizing work for artists and working behind the scenes. And now the two of them are figuring the gallery thing out together. But they are not exactly neophytes.

Their first show is for the Mexican American artist (and accordian prodigy) Cande Aguilar, whose bordertown pop-infused work reflects both sides of his heritage. They had 200 people at the opening (the show is up till at least Oct. 1 and really worth seeing). The plan is to have four shows a year with some breathing time in between and so far, they are booked through the end of 2020, including a partnership with Doctors Without Borders.

“We are limited to nothing,” says Nancy, whose own studio is still in the back of the gallery, and where the floors aren’t quite as shiny (see example below). She’ll likely use her network of fellow artists to find most of her shows. “I can smell good work.”

81 Leonard Gallery
81 Leonard St., between Church and Broadway
Monday – Friday, 10a to 6p
Or by appointment



  1. So amazing, congrats and cannot wait to stop bye and check it out

  2. Proving New York City is where it all happens.
    Two talented ladies making it happen by creating opportunities.

  3. Amazing studio..
    Can’t wait to see more

  4. Congratulations!! You are so amazingly talented! The Studio looks fantastic.