Art Crawl in the Bowery

Originally Published in The Globe and Mail

When the New Museum of Contemporary Art moved in, some artists sighed at the inevitable spike in rents. But the Bowery's gentrification hasn't squeezed bohos out quite yet. Five small galleries opened their doors in the past year. And as Donna Tillotson reports, their curators are not only drawing celebrity collectors such as Marc Jacobs and Matt Dillon, they're earning critical cred with cutting-edge exhibits.


Critical cred The eponymous owner has been a curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and the Museum of Modern Art. "We opened here because of the close proximity to the New Museum and the diversity of galleries from non-profits to artist-run spaces to project spaces - alternatives to the traditional commercial gallery," Amy Smith-Stewart says.

Gentrification index Smith-Stewart's reasoning behind the location brings her gentrification rating down. But the camera crew, media huddle and champagne-sipping art dealers who mingled in the street among trendy neighbourhood passersby during her last exhibit more resembled the tony Chelsea gallery scene she had just left.

On the wall This month, the gallery launched Another Peep Show, an intimate five-artist exhibit that explores our voyeuristic impulses. Artists include sculptor Sean Bluechel and painters Ylva Ogland and Elif Uras. The exhibit includes a painting of female masturbation, ceramic installations and lewd abstract drawings. Actual burlesque shows are yet to be determined.

The details 53 Stanton St.;

212-477-2821; www.smith-



Critical cred Marc Jancou ran galleries in Zurich, London and Chelsea before moving into the old training space for the Blue Man Group. "It's an up-and-coming area in the New York art scene, and we wanted to be a part of it," Jancou says.

Gentrification index Following the herd to Bow Town, this gallery may offer as much indie ingenuity as the Whole Foods luxury grocer that recently opened up the street. Last month's benefit to cover the medical bills of cancer victim and Chelsea art collector Vanina Holasek shows that Jancou is at least heart-headed. But the more than half a million dollars raised from pieces auctioned for as much as $20,000 - by special friends that included Matt Dillon and Marc Jacobs - doesn't sing an ode to the downtrodden area. And the white-tented entrance and guest list for the event didn't help.

On the wall Berlin-based artist Slawomir Elsner takes up residence May 29. Known for his oil on canvas of desolate rooms and faceless portraits, Elsner's lifelike paintings are haunting, if not altogether dark.

The details Great Jones Alley; 212-473-2100;


Critical cred Director of Chelsea's Perry Rubenstein Gallery and curator at Marianne Boesky Gallery, Nicelle Beauchene decided to move east to open up her own space. With free rein to curate as she pleases, Beauchene has developed an unintentional focus on female artists, something she says is unique to her gallery. "I really liked the neighbourhood. It's much more friendly and young than the white-box galleries of Chelsea," she says.

Gentrification index An outsider to the outsider art scene, Beauchene holds the title for the most eastern gallery of the Bowery cluster. Other galleries are looking to locate farther toward the East River this September, Beauchene says, but for now she is leading the exploration.

On the wall The gallery's inaugural show, Louise Despont's the Plant Life of Saints, runs until June 8. Her paintings are inspired by the work of Swiss artist, researcher and natural healer Emma Kunz, who used a pendulum to paint large-scale monographs. Despont's exhibition includes drawings and sculptures of shapes and forms expressed through rhythms, measurements and a sparse sense of geometry.

The details 163 Eldridge St.; 212-375-8043;


Critical cred Simon Preston worked for the renowned Thomas Dane Gallery in London before making a career in New York. His first show received a favourable mention in The New York Times and was a critic's pick on "[Moving here]really had nothing to do with the new museum, but rather the cheap rent of a ground-floor storefront space," Preston says.

Gentrification index Although there are nearly 50 galleries nearby, this one has maintained the derelict exterior of what was once a seafood wholesaler, with graffiti on the outside and only a small extempore sign advertising the gallery's whereabouts. The gallery is also the only cultural stop on the street, sharing the sidewalk with businesses such as the Guan Gong Temple eatery and Flat Rate Moving.

On the wall Until June 11, Mad Amour, a show created to probe the sublime and downright insane of satirical sculpture, shows the work of California-based artists Marco Rios and Kara Tanaka. Watch out for the main attraction, Whirling Dirvish (pictured), a moving structure that lives up to its name.

The details 301 Broome St.; 212-431-1105;


Critical cred Curator Alix Sloan is the former director of the Los Angeles contemporary gallery La Luz De Jesus - part of a folksy and sometimes deviant pop-art scene known for shedding light on underground artists. "I decided to open on the LES because I live on the Lower East Side and love the neighbourhood," Sloan says.

Gentrification index From the red carpets to the back streets of the LES, Sloan sidelined a burgeoning career producing films in L.A. to refocus on her dream project: a gallery showcasing the so-called lowbrow luminaries of the pop surrealist art scene. Keeping a minimal profile, Sloan's mark on the reshaping neighbourhood is only some additional character.

On the wall Opening May 15, the artist-named show features the work of Italian photographer Andrea Aversa, who creates and photographs dioramas. "He uses everything from backdrops he paints himself, to a dead fish he buys at a fish market, to little plastic people, to twigs he finds, to tufts of toilet paper painted and arranged to look like waves. Once the diorama is completed, he lights and shoots it and the final result is the photograph," Sloan says.

The details 128 Rivington St.; 212-477-1140;