A trashcan on New York’s Lower East Side will soon be home to William Gallery. Is this gesture a glib line about the art market’s search for the next big thing? Ironic self-deprecation? A louche conceptual gesture about how anything goes?
Whatever the case, this “contemporary art gallery located in a garbage can on the 5th floor of 179 Canal Street,” as it’s called in a press release, opens Jan 28. The gallery is a project by New York artists Sam Pulitzer and Mathieu Malouf, who have both executed projects with Real Fine Arts, in Brooklyn. (Pulitzer has a solo show on view through Feb. 5.)
How seriously might we take this development? Jay Sanders, co-curator of the forthcoming Whitney Biennial, is lending William Gallery some credibility by co-organizing the first show.
The venture seems to extend a tradition of art galleries in small and unconventional spaces, specifically the Wrong Gallery, founded by Maurizio Cattelan, Ali Subotnick and Massimiliano Gioni, which operated in a 2½-square-foot space in Chelsea from 2002-05 and satirized the burgeoning commercial scene there.
Reached by phone on Monday morning, the artist-founders were straight-faced with A.i.A. “We were thinking of the number of galleries that are popping up in the neighborhood, gentrifying spaces that were inoperable. The garbage can was a way to elevate the game in that regard,” said Malouf. “We’re working with smaller means but on a big topic,” added Pulitzer. “And it’s operating between the can and the website. That’s where the gallery exists. In that space of austerity.”
An inaugural show, “Gutja Hai Sern Been Lop Sop,” will comprise posters, prints, invites, books and other ephemera relating to underground filmmaker Jack Smith, all of which sounds like it would fit handily into the proverbial circular file. The work all comes from a private collection. The show is co-curated by Sanders (formerly of Greene Naftali Gallery) and Olivia Shao.
One imagines that the scale models of galleries that curators typically use to map out shows might not be necessary in this case. “We liken the invitation to show in a trash can to an indeterminate score, like an early La Monte Young piece,” says Pulitzer. “The person who’s invited to show performs a very limited score, but one that gives them a great freedom of interpretation.”
Asked whether this will be a commercial gallery, the artists answer emphatically, “Yes. We’ve got very low overhead. It’s definitely for-profit. But it will be more like a project space, in that we won’t be representing artists.”
The gallery’s very funny online statement parodies a species of pretentious, unintelligible artspeak: “Making distinct typologies interact with each other, and multiplying their information, the ostensible content of the trash soon short-circuits, giving rise to a series of odd connections-a glut of delirious information.” It goes on to note that William is located “only 20 minutes in a cab from Michael Werner Gallery” and that “William is named after a blogger who was recently fired in New York.”
This kind of language points to the artists’ involvement with the anonymous blog “Art Observations with Jerry Magoo,” which Pulitzer describes as “known for venomous writing on contemporary art.” The artists half-admitted to writing that blog, saying, “It’s a larger network than us behind that is behind it.”
The address has an artistic heritage of its own, having hosted Margaret Lee’s 179 Canal project space before it moved to its current location at 47 Canal.