From messenger service to gallery space, a TriBeCa storefront was recently transformed, allowing two NYU grads to co-operate a business and curate their first art show.
Graduates of the art history department Alex Ahn and Ari Lipkis, both 23, opened the gallery TEMP, a collaborative space for young artists, on Sept. 8. The current show, “Working On It,” features large-scale installations by 12 artists who represent the 20-something generation. No piece is simply a painting or sculpture, but rather each artwork requires space — something many young artists are not given.
The installations revolve around central themes of our generation’s thoughts: technology and preservation of youth. Photographs reflect rooftop bars, dancing topless in the subway, fire escapes and studio apartments. A success tent offers advice on how to be successful with tips such as “question what you think is natural.” As one walks through a spiral of plexiglass painted with people clad in cocktail dresses and suits, the space becomes narrower — engendering nerves, anxiety and claustrophobia.
“This is young people trying to do young things that are interesting,” Ahn said. “It’s about new medium … the comparison between the analog and the digital.”
Ahn and Lipkis have been working on the project for nine months and met over 200 young artists during the process. They traveled to Bushwick, Sunset Park, Harlem and other areas, venturing into artist collective-type warehouses and sub-basements.
They acquired the 4,500 square-foot gallery space from Ahn’s family friend who is allowing them to use the building between tenants. However, the co-owners are funding all other expenses themselves. The size and location of the space differentiates TEMP from other art galleries that focus on young artists.
“There are a lot of young artists in New York, but they really don’t get to show so much,” Ahn said. “For example, in Manhattan, or in a space where they can show large-scale installations.”
Throughout their project, Ahn and Lipkis received support from faculty at NYU, such as Dr. Julia Robinson of the Art History department, who served as a mentor for the co-curators.
“She really helped boost our confidence,” Lipkis said. “She gave us the support that we needed to feel strong enough to do this project.”
While at NYU, Ahn and Lipkis served as co-presidents of the Fine Arts Society and invited art world figures such as Philippe de Montebello, Simon de Pury, Helene Winer and Michelle Kuo to speak. Through FAS, students are able to learn about the art world in New York and meet with professionals in the field.
Gallatin senior Sara Baez, one of the co-presidents of FAS, remembers Ahn and Lipkis from her freshman year.
“I was taken aback by how driven and interested they were in the art world,” Baez said. “They worked so great together.”
Ahn and Lipkis’s varying tastes in art — Ahn’s preference is American Abstraction while Lipkis’ favorite is the Italian Renaissance — creates balance in their decisions. When narrowing 200 artists to 12, Ahn and Lipkis learned what they gravitated toward, and their reasoning behind their selections became stronger.
The pair selected the artists because they fit the theme of TEMP’s first show. These 12 artists helped Ahn and Lipkis realize their vision to promote young artists and curators in an innovative and dynamic way.
“Working On It” is on display through Oct. 14. The gallery is located at 57 Walker St. and is open Thursday to Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday 2 to 6 p.m.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 17 print edition. Emily McDermott is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]
In the previous version of this article, WSN incorrectly reported that Sara Baez is the secretary of the Fine Arts Society. In fact, she is one of the co-presidents. WSN regrets the error.