centerlogobigAAD logo

enarzh-CNnlfrdehiplrues
American

NEW YORK is a breeding ground for irony. Case and point: pulling up to 903 Park Avenue in search of a fine arts gallery, and finding what appears to be a residential building. It makes you wonder if Eva Gabor is selling her furniture at auction before being carted off to greener acres.

Equally ironic is the 45-minute cab ride to a tiny East Village showroom; its graffiti-tagged exterior and the smell of churros are both strong indications that you’ve left the Upper East Side. Why churros? It’s the first smell that hits you as you get out of the cab.

Looking down at the Ladurée bag in my hand, I see the error in my ways. Macaroons are to the UES as off-brand churros croissants are to East Village. A pastry by the same name as something you can find in a plastic cubby at Dunkin Donuts cannot possibly be pretentious, right?

There’s a glaring dichotomy that the Upper East Side and the East Village seem to create—and it manifests in more than just baked goods; namely, the art. The pastoral scenes, rendered by Ralph Albert Blakelock, serve as the proverbial palate cleanser to the exterior of 903 Park Ave. A member of the Hudson River School, Blakelock loved that warm, natural light that one often finds, peeking through wooded terrain—a landscape, easily forgotten in the City; in fact, nature is almost a commodity here, and Louis Salerno ~ owner of Questroyal Fine Art ~ seems to agree.

 

UPPER EAST SIDE

 

Screen Shot 2016 05 13 at 22.18.17Louis M. Salerno | To learn more, click here

Looking around Questroyal Fine Art, a return to nature is the common denominator among its featured artwork. I pop into Mr. Salerno’s office to drop off the box of Ladurée macaroons while he takes a phone call. He has a Childe Hassam painting (featured in an advertisement in this month’s Architectural Digest) hanging on his wall; beneath it, a wooded Blakelock landscape. A staff member grabs it and hurries out the door. I follow her to a backroom where she takes a hand drill and begins to disassemble its frame; while I’m sure she’s wholly qualified to be doing this, I have no desire to watch and find out for myself. The gallery is prepping for a major Blakelock exhibit this November, lauded as the most comprehensive show since 1945 (and so begins the cataloging).

 Childe1Childe Hassam as seen in Architectural Digest - One of The Ten American Painters | To learn more, click here

Screen Shot 2016 05 14 at 01.04.08Questroyal Gallery, 903 Park Ave, 3rd Floor | To learn more, click here

The majority of pieces that hang in Questroyal depict bucolic scenes of the world, a seeming universe away from the island of Manhattan. Blakelock’s work, along with a host of other artists, serves as a respite from endless slabs of concrete that lie in place of green grass. It is in appreciating the most basic of things that Mr. Salerno’s clients seem to find luxury— as promised, that special brand of New York irony.

Seascapes with fishermen hang diagonally across from jockeys on horseback, while Native Americans sow seeds, two gilded frames down. Perhaps the luxury of Hassam and Blakelock isn’t specific to nature, but in the exquisite portrayal of everyday life; that is, lives that are far from those, led by New Yorkers.

EAST VILLAGE

 

Screen Shot 2016 05 13 at 21.17.09

Meanwhile, in East Village, a man with a bike-chain-cum-sash wanders into Dorian Grey Gallery behind me. Mr. Pusey is on the phone and waves warmly (to one of us, anyway). Trying to dress in something suitable for both galleries yields a strange outfit— something like Alexa Chung, sauntering around in her nightgown—confused, and yet, polished. I overhear Molua, the gallery manager, and the mystery man, talking about his flooded apartment… and maybe, a question: “Could I keep some stuff here?” 

Screen Shot 2016 05 13 at 22.53.50Chris Pusey - co-owner | To learn more, click here 

Christopher (Mr. Pusey) hangs up the phone and gives me a bear hug (that’s how everyone greets everyone in the East Village). He sees the Ladurée bag: “I’ll wait for Luis to open that.”

Though I’ve yet to meet Luis Accorsi, I’ve heard enough to feel as though I’ve known him for years. You’re struck with a sense of familiarity when you come to Dorian Grey Gallery; and I mean “struck” in the truest sense of the word. You walk in, off the street, and they offer you a cup of coffee, swat away a handshake in favor of a hug, and apparently, agree to store the odds and ends of a neighbor whose apartment just flooded.

“Oh, no. He’s actually one of our artists, Louis Renzoni,” Molua tells me. He left just moments ago, otherwise I would’ve been tempted to do a double take. She points out a few exquisite oil paintings. “Those are his.” The sensuous image of a reclining woman catches my attention; she’s delicate without seeming weak.

WomenrecliningAwakening by Louis Renzoni @ Dorian Grey Gallery | To learn more, click here

Reclining1Stik @ Dorian Grey Gallery | To learn more, click here

As it turns out, I was right about one thing—Renzoni is from the neighborhood. In fact, all of Dorian Grey’s artists have a connection to East Village. The artwork brings the neighborhood into the gallery, and not just figuratively—graffiti-filled canvasses adorn the walls, along with pastels and watercolors of St. Marks Place—it oozes a cool factor that the Upper East is bone dry lacking. At Dorian Grey, they call it “grit,” that evasive quality that makes graffiti high art, the quintessence of New York’s beauty.

As Molua points out a gorgeous shot of the Hudson by James Romberger, a man with shaggy hair, a tailored Italian suit, and white gloves rushes into the gallery with a lattice-cut bin in hand.

Screen Shot 2016 05 13 at 23.15.03Mr. Accorsi - co-owner - with his most recent acquisition, a Brancusi style sculpture by East Village Artist, Mike Bidlo

“He’s just come from an auction,” Christopher tells me. The man yanks out an abstract white bust and poses with it, next to his head.

“How do I look?” he asks. From what I’ve heard, this must be Mr. Accorsi.

Screen Shot 2016 05 13 at 21.15.37

For what Dorian Grey lacks in floor space, they make up for in character—or maybe I should say "authentic grit." The neighborhood is their gallery.

Catching a cab uptown, I notice Tompkins Sq. Park, a mere few feet from Dorian Grey, where they emphasize a fusing of manmade with nature, the neglected street corners that are repurposed as art; I’ll leave you to develop your own sense of irony on that one.

To visit the Questroyal Gallery Page, click here.

To visit the Dorian Grey Gallery Page, click here.

Screen Shot 2016 05 04 at 22.00.50

You may also like to read:

* [Im]penetrable Strangeness: Sitting Down with Miles Aldridge

* Status Trophies: Style & Substance

* Asia Week NYC, Full of Surprises

* Art Museum Road trip, Princeton, Stop One

About the Author

Alessandra Massameno

Alessandra Massameno

Alessandra Massameno is head of Communications and Editor of Feminist Art and Literature in New York, on behalf of Art, Antiques and Design (AAD). A recent graduate of Harvard, she works as a writer, ...