Art-World Hot Spot Acme's Impressive Collection Boasts Pieces by Dana Schutz, Richard Prince, and Frank Gehry

A bust of Einstein, by Bruce High Quality Foundation, sits with bottles of scotch at Acme, NYC
(Photo © Micah Schmidt)

NEW YORK — Since its soft opening in December 2011, the new Acme restaurant located at 9 Great Jones Street has had its share of notable art-world diners. Chuck Close has been spotted there, Paul Kasmin Gallery celebrated Will Ryman’s exhibition opening, and Vladimir Roitfeld, Creative Time, Art Space, and Lehmann Maupin have all held dinners at the establishment. But art also has a permanent place in the latest art-world hot spot.

Shortly after it opened, the restaurant was even the scene of a brazen art theft. A chalkboard by Warhol cohort Taylor Mead with the quote “Before Adam met Eve, he was gay,” vanished one night. Whether it was a drunk prank or the work of somebody looking to make a quick buck is uncertain — the owners didn’t bother to report the disappearance to police.

Now, a Duchamp-inspired bicycle wheel sculpture by Hanna Liden placed in the foyer greets guests and passersby with the words “Have a nice day” in blue neon lighting set against its spokes – the wheel sits atop a stack of folding chairs. And that’s just the beginning.

Once inside, to the left against a brick wall is a cluster of pieces, including a Josephine Meckseper print of a woman in a bathing suit hanging upside down, a 2004 Frank Gehry house study, a Rene Ricard work that reads “Then love takes us to faraway places,” and a black-and-white photograph of a nude woman feeding a goat by Olympia Scarry. Across from that is a photograph of a woman going through the torment of a break up by Alice Lena and a piece by Sophie Calle called “Traductrice En Language MSS/Translatero Into MSS Language,” comprised of black text against a white background.

Walk down farther, and nestled on the bar shelves between bottles of Balvenie scotch is a bust of Albert Einstein by Bruce High Quality Foundation. A Dana Schutz painting called “Untitled” (Poisoned Man) sits on a shelf above rows of wine. In the back on the right wall hangs a series of nine Richard Prince “Skull Bunny” paper bags.

The restaurant’s proprietors — Jon Neidich, a former manager of the Top of the Standard; BlackBook magazine founder Evanly Schindler; and Jean-Marc Houmard and Huy Chi Le of Indochine — certainly have a Rolodex full of movers and shakers in New York’s creative circles. Acme’s high-profile clientele proves it, and they’re probably going there for more than Mads Refslund’s (previously of Noma in Copenhagen) innovative Nordic-inspired dishes like duck in a jar or chicken and eggs, although the food is good, too.

The owners didn’t hire an art consultant or curator to choose the pieces that would hang on the walls. Instead, they commissioned artists like Liden and Scarry, bought works, or plucked items from their personal collections. Neidich took three pieces from a quadriptych by Donald Sultan that had been with him for 15 years, most recently on a bedroom wall.

“They kind of have that old New York feel to them and that’s something that our space has that people are drawn to, so it seemed like the right relationship between work and the space,” said Neidich of the Sultan artworks.

Pieces were hung inconspicuously, as the partners wanted the art to be a part of the restaurant’s cozy interiors, rather than serve as focal points. They succeeded with that notion, and the environs feel more like that of a collector’s warm home than a stark Chelsea gallery. “We wanted good works by great artists and to have a mix of younger artists and more well known artists … to make sure that it added to the experience of the restaurant, but it wasn’t imposing on our customers,” said Neidich.

Next up on their plate are artist collaborations with the restaurant, but Neidich remained mum about who they’re negotiating with. “We’re in talks with a few artists to make more pieces for the space and we hope to have relationships with artists where perhaps we’d be loaned a piece in exchange for credit at the restaurant, and so we wanted it to be something where it’s sort of a mutually beneficial relationship.”

If there’s any indication that Acme has succeeded with its art collection, it’s in the curiosity it has sparked in diners at the restaurant. “A lot of times people ask us who the works are by, which already in itself is a great thing — to be able to expose people to works that they may not have seen,” said Neidich.

Click on the slide show to see pieces from Acme restaurant’s art collection.