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“Public Space in a Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture”

Celebrating 40 Years of Storefront for Art & Architecture

September 17 – December 17, 2022

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Exhibition examines the downtown NYC non-profit’s critical role in investigating issues of publicness, the politics of place and “invisibilized” communities, urban development, gentrification, and displacement through archival material and artworks by groundbreaking architects and artists.
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    Installation view, Public Space in a Private Time:
Building Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2022.
Photo by Andrea Molina Cuadro.
Courtesy of Storefront for Art and Architecture. 
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On the occasion of the gallery’s 40th anniversary, Public Space in a Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture considers how the social and political challenges facing New York city helped to define Storefront’s focus on the built environment in its early years. Through a close reading of some of the early exhibitions and projects, using the archive as its main resource, the exhibition makes a strong case for the important role Storefront has played in the defense of public space.
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The exhibition foregrounds Storefront’s early preoccupation with publicness, the politics of place, the prevalence of private interests within the public domain, as well as the accelerated pace of urban development, gentrification, and displacement — issues that were central to New York City during those years, and that continue to be critical to this day.
The establishment of certain spaces in the city as “public” is a reminder, a warning, that the rest of the city isn’t public.
— Vito Aconcci, 1990
The title of the exhibition takes its name from an essay by artist and architect Vito Acconci, creator in collaboration with Steven Holl, of the gallery’s iconic facade. The show opens with an enlarged photo of Storefront’s first program at its previous venue at 51 Prince Street, presenting a group of people gathered on the sidewalk and street – in public space – for a performance. Both that site and the open facade at Storefront’s current venue at 97 Kenmare, are examples of Acconci’s understanding of the gallery as a public space, “as an analog and a representation of the street. The gallery, like the street, (is) not a mode you stop at but a circulation route that you pass through.” (Acconci, 2002)
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   Installation view, Public Space in a Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2022. Photo by Andrea Molina Cuadro.
Courtesy of Storefront for Art and Architecture.
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Storefront was founded by Kyong Park in 1982. Its first space on Prince St. was a 10 x 21 ft storefront that opened on September 17th with a performance series titled Performance A-Z. With work by artists Carolee Schneeman, Arleen Schloss, and Tehching Hsieh, among others, this project presented a performance each day for 26 consecutive nights. Four years later, the gallery moved to its permanent home in a unique triangular space at 97 Kenmare Street, in a part of Soho that borders Little Italy. Artist Shirin Neshat joined Storefront during its early years and was co-Director alongside Park through 1998.
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Detailed view of Performance A-Z (1983). Public Space in a Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2022. Photo by Andrea Molina Cuadro. Courtesy of Storefront for Art and Architecture.
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Storefront, especially during its first decade, directly addressed key urban struggles related to displacement, privatization, and public art through its exhibitions, performances, open calls, and public competitions. These initiatives actively engaged the art and architecture community in the defense of public space — including space that was identified as inherently public, as well as space that through collective work, was to be made public.
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Throughout its history, Storefront has convened artists, architects, community activists, and organizations into rethinking the city as a space that is public because it has a right to the place. The destruction of Adam Purple’s Garden of Eden, the redevelopment of the Whitney Museum, the redefinition of the Gowanus Canal, and the removal of Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc, are just some of the examples of projects that will showcase this history — a history that was also critical in the claiming of space for communities invisibilized by the city, such as the politics of queer spaces, the spaces for the unhoused, the spaces of migrant communities, among other key struggles of the eighties and nineties that are more pressing than ever in today’s urban environment.
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Public Space in a Private Time chronicles how artists and architects have engaged with the politics of public space in New York City. Bringing together archival materials and artworks from 1982 through the year 2000, this exhibition looks at the way in which Storefront and its program have engaged actively and served as a creative space of resistance against seminal moments of urban struggle.
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   Installation view, Public Space in a Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2022. Photo by Michael Oliver. Courtesy of Storefront for Art and Architecture.
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Taking its title from an essay presented at the gallery in 1990 by artist Vito Acconci, the exhibition highlights the role Storefront has long played in positioning art and architecture at the center of public life. Additionally, it reveals how this small, artist-founded nonprofit space established itself as a pivotal counter institution and site for critical debates on these issues.
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The exhibition is organized in two main sections: “Margin as Center” and “Through the Facade, Onto the Sidewalk, Into the Street.” Using titles from early essays by Storefront founder Kyong Park, these groupings reveal how the program and physical architecture of the gallery emblematize an expanded understanding of public space.
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Public Space in a Private Time presents some of the key early moments of resistance against the erasure of civic space in New York City that were instrumental in the shaping of Storefront’s ethos.
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The exhibition shines a light on these projects through key artworks and archival materials, including an original print from Carolee Schneeman’s 1982 performance piece, and photographs from the last day of Outdoor Piece by Tehching Hsieh, where he spent a whole year living outside and moving around lower Manhattan. Other key works include an original drawing by Nam June Paik proposing a conceptual alternative to the Korean demilitarized zone, documentation of Mierle Laderman Ukeles and Michael Sorkin’s response to Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc after its controversial removal from Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan, as well as an original print illustrated by Jean Michel Basquiat as part of a fundraiser for soup kitchens Storefront spearheaded alongside Fashion Moda in 1983.
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  Detailed view of plans and watercolors from the Storefront Facade Project by Steven Holl (1993)
Public Space in a Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2022.
Photo by Andrea Molina Cuadro. Courtesy of Storefront for Art and Architecture.
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Participating Artists
Vito Acconci, Jean Michel Basquiat, Mel Chin, Christo, Beatriz Colomina, Elizabeth Diller and Ric Scofidio, David Hammons, Tehching Hsieh, Steven Holl, Nam June Paik, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Shirin Neshat, Kyong Park, Arleen Schloss, Carolee Schneemann, Michael Sorkin, among others.
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  Installation view, Public Space in a Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2022.
Photo by Andrea Molina Cuadro. Courtesy of Storefront for Art and Architecture
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Upcoming Program: On the Ground (2023-2024)
The exhibition and programs of Public Space in a Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture are an homage to a rapidly disappearing scene and serve as a prologue to a new series of exhibitions with artists and architects presenting collaborative work at Storefront and a city storefront titled On the Ground.
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This exhibition series celebrates New York’s ground floor through the diverse storefronts that give life to its streets. At a time when social interaction in cities is shaped mainly by the commercial forces behind big brands and franchises, On the Ground centers on unique stories that give identity to New York’s changing built environment.
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The series will be launched in early 2023 with an exhibition by artist collective Shanzhai Lyric (Ming Lin & Alexandra Tatarsky) and their long-term research bureau Canal Street Research Association, titled On the Ground: The Gift Shop. This project engages a retail space in Canal Street in tandem with our gallery space in Kenmare Street. Throughout 2023, On the Ground will engage artists and architects with the research of New York City’s ground floor across all boroughs.
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Storefront for Art and Architecture 

Storefront for Art and Architecture amplifies the understanding of the built environment through artistic practice. Founded in 1982 by artists and architects in downtown New York, Storefront has chronicled the changing urban landscape of the city and remains committed to producing and presenting work that addresses diverse notions of place and public life.
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Storefront for Art and Architecture
97 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012
Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 11 am – 6 pm
@storefrontnyc
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Credits
Exhibition
Public Space in a Private Time: Building Storefront for Art and Architecture is part of an anniversary initiative that studies the organization’s early history to inform future programs. The exhibition is collectively organized by Storefront’s staff with artist and board member Justin Beal. Graphic Design by Natasha Jen/Pentagram.
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Storefront for Art and Architecture Team:
José Esparza Chong Cuy, Executive Director and Chief Curator
Guillermo Ruiz de Teresa, Curator of Programs and Public Affairs
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Storefront for Art and Architecture | 97 Kenmare Street, New York, NY 10012

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AAQ / Resource

Bruce Nagel + Partners Architects

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