The Swiss Institute for Contemporary Art has opened its new 7,500 square foot Selldorf Architects-designed location on St. Marks Place in New York City. Taking over four levels of a former bank built in 1954 and designed by Alfred Hopkins and Associates, the renovation is, in the words of Swiss Institute director Simon Castets, a “counter narrative” to the building’s former financial, low-occupancy use. The Selldorf redesign uses a seemingly minimal touch. Though there have been significant changes—full stairwells and elevators have been added along with a total plan rework—the overall architectural sensibility feels light and unimposing. White walls remain unadorned. Flooring is understated. On all ceilings, ductwork, lighting, and structural elements remain exposed—a departure from many recent galleries in the city that have instead focused on hiding every functional detail, even the lighting, as much as possible. Curators generally aren’t keen on losing space to the workaday trappings of administrative necessity. Swiss Institute has filled every corner, wall, stairwell, and even the elevator with art to allow “artists to reclaim the space lost to New York City building code” as part of the SI ONSITE program. Stairwells feature sculptures and frescoes by Shahryar Nashat and Latifa Echakhch. The elevator has been turned into an artwork, skinned in a welcoming pink from Sherwin Williams called “Memorable Rose,” which is taken from the color of a tongue by artist Pamela Rosenkranz for an installation appropriately titled Color of a Tongue (Director) (2018). A cellar gallery remains honest about what it really is with layers of gray paint applied by Dusty Baker. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bkd-vN1FN80/?taken-at=1339491416095759 Like the building itself, the current exhibition, Readymades Belong to Everyone (open through August 19), is packed with art. The first floor, which features ceilings that soar over 17 feet, is dense with all variety of sculpture and 2D work. Despite lower ceilings, the new location's upper level is airy, wrapped in windows with exposed wood shining on the ceiling. There is a reading room, currently taken over by a project from Heman Chong in collaboration with Ken Liu. Chong and Liu’s Legal Books (Shanghai) features hundreds of books selected by Liu, a sci-fi writer and attorney, inspired by thinking on the Chinese legal system. The art instillation-cum-reading room features painted curtains by Jill Mulleady, another way in which the Institute is packing in the art. https://www.instagram.com/p/BkVg-UtlioO/?taken-at=5122362 One enters from Second Avenue to find a visitor welcome desk and a bookshop from Printed Matter. The entire space is decked out in the clean lines of USM’s furniture, and behind the visitor information desk is John Armleder’s Royal Flush (2018) installation of mirrored tiles reminiscent of a disco ball. https://www.instagram.com/p/BkYmINDnsN8/?taken-at=5122362 The Swiss Institute also takes the art outdoors with a terrace that places visitors in the midst of the city. The current plein air setup includes work by Valentin Carron, Nancy Lupo, and Michael Wang. In Wang's Extinct in the Wild series, the artist references Peter Stuyvesant's original orchard, composed of native plants that now only grow with human care and populated what is now the East Village. Signage on the building is multilingual, not merely with the four official languages of Switzerland, but also with the most spoken languages in the Swiss Institute's new surrounding area: English, Spanish, and Chinese. The Swiss Institute, which has free admission, has also been collaborating with local community organizations for artist-led workshops and is actively celebrating the artistic history and present of their new East Village location. The Swiss Institute’s new 38 St. Marks location opens with the exhibition Readymades Belong to Everyone, on view now, curated by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen. In addition to the artists described above, the show features many architects and designers including OFFICE, Rem Koolhaas, MOS Architects, and Sauter von Moos in collaboration with Herzog and de Meuron.
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BOFFO is an arts and culture non-profit fostering collaborations between artists, designers, communities, and theorists to inform and engage the public in participatory arts programs. In late May, it launched a show house at a Lower East Side public school building turned apartment house, called The Madison Jackson. It turned out to be a clever draw getting people to a neighborhood that is lower and farther east than more popular sections of the LES. I speak from familiarity as I live in a perch overlooking the venue. The glam show house is unusual for a neighborhood comprised largely of public housing blocks next to tall towers that formerly were union cooperatives and as close to socialist housing as we’ve had in NYC. This large swath of housing allows for only a small number of storefronts or buildings that can easily convert to restaurants, retail, business, or other services and that means little ambient, walk-in traffic. And that makes BOFFO’s ambitious efforts all the more unusual. The Madison Jackson is developed by the Sung family with Michael Bolla of Douglas Elliman. The six-story building with 110 units, priced around $750 per square foot, is now being pitched to wealthy observant Jews, with added features including a 24-hour kosher and vegan food service and a pool with designated single-gender swimming hours. In this context, BOFFO was a welcome way to get a peek into this building that has been under start-and-stop construction for about 15 years, ever since PS 12, designed by Charles Snyder in 1908, held its last class. Artist/designer Andrew Yes curated four spaces in four ground-floor bi-level apartments around the themes of Nature, Future, Play, and Work. On entering, visitors were greeted with an interactive light installation, “Cloud” by Focus Lighting, which leads you down a corridor and links the four themed rooms. Infrared sensors process movement beneath 200 tubes and up-lighting on the ceiling, shifting color in 12 different configurations. In the Work room, a geometric jungle gym of green and chrome dominates the space. Actually, it’s a modular storage system by Ghiora Aharoni Design Studio for USM Modular Furniture that has been set on a reflective floor and outfitted with artist books by Printed Matter. Also featured in this room is the Clown lamp by Jaime Hayon switched on by touching the gold-dot “nose” on a head-shaped white ceramic base. The Play apartment is dominated by Tom Fruin’s Maxikiosco peaked-roof house of colorful panes, framed by Crouscalogero (Estiluz) balloon lights. To get to it though, you must first pass through colorful Pox balls by LMNOQ extruding from the walls and a rubber band stairwell installation by Margarita Mileva. Upstairs is a “Victorian” dollhouse by Snøhetta. In the Nature room, a forest of upside-down hanging trees by Ovando floral design is set against a tropical bird mural by Pablo Piatti for Tres Tintas Barcelona. Alex Gil of Spacecutter has created the “Monolith” dining table circled by chairs that create a solid box when they are pushed into place, as if a virtual tomb. Assorted cutlery in ceramic and in metal by Melissa Gamwell combine conventional shapes and unorthodox shapes, including hammerheads. Mark Talbot’s “Tile Fungus” forms a living cityscape in white bas relief. A highlight of the Future is upstairs in a virtual bedroom by Pryor Callaway. Here, mannequins and beams of laser light make you wonder if sleep will even be possible when you move into your apartment at The Madison Jackson.