Brooklynite Gallery, a pioneer art space in Bed-Stuy known for showcasing emerging talent and street-inspired work, is celebrating their first year in business with a showcase of Australian-born performance and visual artist Ben Frost through July 18th. They’ve also just opened a new, albeit temporary, East Village branch aptly named The Summer Pop-Up Shop that will showcase work from some of the best international street artists.
At the opening party last week, owner and co-founder Rae McGrath spoke to us for a moment about throwing fantastic parties, courting the anti-establishment, and finding the pretty in an ugly recession.
Flavorpill: What’s the philosophy behind the Brooklynite Gallery? What audience are you trying to reach?
Rae McGrath: The goal of Brooklynite Gallery is to showcase artists who think outside the box, challenge the establishment, and are willing to think big. We are about creating the most exposure possible for the artist and opening parties that people will remember. Artists spend so much time in their studios leading up to their exhibition; we feel it is our duty to draw as many patrons to view their hard work as possible.
We believe music and art go hand in hand. I’ve never met an artist who doesn’t work while listening to music. We work with the artists showing here to find just the right music to create the experience they have in mind.
We also believe it’s important to not just send out a flier that announces an upcoming exhibition and hope people show up. We produce videos, work with the artists to make hand-made invitations, and secure exterior locations to allow them to create work on the streets.
In short we don’t see ourselves as a “gallery” as much as a venue to allow artists to flourish. We are inspired by CNN Breaking News and the international community. Our parties draw fans from all over the world; our online TV channel (which airs our Opening Parties LIVE with chat) does the same. Think the vibe of the Warhol Factory parties mixed with the ’80s breakdance culture — that’s what Brooklynite’s goal is.
FP: How do you choose which artists to represent? Or is it more of a creative preference?
RM: We choose artists that are hungry and eager to get their work out to the people. Not necessarily in quantity — but in quality. In the past an artist would have to present a set of slides to a gallery owner in hopes they would be selected to have a show. Nowadays with the internet age artists can make their own buzz, especially street artists and have galleries chase them. Hell — I just bought new pair of cross trainers to catch a few myself! We look for artists that are bold, daring and present. It’s not just the art but the high we see them get from getting new work out there. That’s what drives us to work with them.
FP: The Brooklynite Gallery has a very modern, almost futuristic look and feel to it. Do you think the type of art you showcase is the future of art?
RM: Yes and no. The artists we’ve show are smart enough to know that the ones who came before them have paved the way — allowed them to be who they are now and who they strive to be. Yet at the same time they are now pushing new boundaries and creating new storylines of their own.
FP: Do you think street art gets its fair amount of exposure in the serious art world? Or is less exposure the point?
RM: I think it gets less exposure but just like anything that’s trying to challenge the establishment there is opposition. We love opposition. Haring, Warhol, Basquiat all started out anti-establishment until they created a new one. I don’t think street artists particularly care about the “serious art world.” In fact it’s hard for a lot of them to take their work into a gallery and clean up the environment so much. We are always careful to make sure they have a lot of range in terms of still staying in touch with the street edge they thrive off of.
FP: How did the new branch come to be? And, if it proves to be a popular destination, would you consider giving it full-time status into the fall?
RM: I’m always reminded of a friend of mine who was dating a girl who was a bit overweight during the summer months one year. He kept assuring me and himself that is was just a “summer thang.” They had fun in the sun but soon after it ended — I think that will be the case for Brooklynite NYC as well.
FP: Considering the recession, is a $1,100 piece feasible for most people? Does art suffer in a recession, too?
RM: Art definitely suffers in a recession. We’ve all felt it. I think buyers are being more particular about what they buy these days. At the same time if you have work that is solid, buyers will find you and want it — like drugs.
The Brooklynite Gallery is located at 334 Malcolm X Boulevard; the Summer Pop-Up Shop is at 632 East 11th Street.