The building holding Juicys Gallery has everything: prime Manhattan location! Month-to-month leases! Free parking, state-of-the-art security, and ample vacancies! And with starting prices at $29 a month, it's probably the last affordable real estate in Manhattan.
"I think it's about 35 square feet," Juicys Gallery founder Raphael Cohen told me last Wednesday night during the inaugural opening, in the hallway of Manhattan Mini Storage. "I didn't bother looking at Brooklyn storefront spaces. I just knew it would be too expensive." Previously, Cohen and fellow artist Edo Rosenblith had also looked into opening a gallery in a shipping container.
For now, Juicys will be a traveling pop-up around Manhattan, with a new show in each neighborhood. Cohen envisions holding another pop-up show near the Chelsea mega-galleries, but that one won't come cheap. "The storage units reflect the prices of the neighborhood real estate," he noted. The current space at 28 Second Ave comes in at $10 a square foot.
Can you live in a storage locker? Just as I was wondering this, an older gentleman remembered that, "Back in the eighties, people would sleep in these things. They've gotta have cameras in here, now." We scanned the ceiling.
The great thing about storage, though, is that it gives emerging artists the freedom to do whatever they want without the high stakes of a New York gallery. "Hopefully it's giving people a more manageable space to present a solo show," Cohen said. "People who are younger—or, at least, I—don't feel ready to fill a whole gallery space. You have the space to figure out what you're going to do without the pressures of a commercial gallery show”—many of which are, themselves, operating on slim margins.
The first show by Lily Wong seems to reflect the cool ethos. A Taste of Spring is a small but sensitive suite of three ink paintings, hung around a bouquet of pussy willows. Wong's images of women gazing out of living room windows look as though they were made from her home, but they were actually taken from screen grabs of 80s and 90s movies. It's an isolated intimacy which seems suitable for the space.
And then the lights shut off, as they automatically do every half hour. Luckily, Cohen had rigged his own track lighting system with tension rods and an electrical battery. We millennials sure are doing more with less.
A Taste of Spring is open through April 23rd. By appointment only.