The Lower East Side mainstay envoy enterprises is expanding. On September 13, the funky, fun-loving gallery will debut its second space, located at 87 Rivington Street, only a few minutes’ walk from its current location at 131 Chrystie Street. The owner, Jimi Dams, purchased the 3,000-square-foot gallery last week, and now has three weeks to move in and install his debut exhibition of new work by artist, fashion designer, set designer, and former club kid Desi Santiago.
“We had been looking for a new space since May,” Dams told ARTINFO in an interview. Since adding additional staff and six new artists in as many months, “There was no room to sit anymore.” Moving forward, he will use the two-floor Rivington Street gallery as envoy enterprises’s main headquarters, where he will show exhibitions by artists represented by the gallery. The old space at 131 Chrystie will become a “creative think tank,” Dams said, where visitors can see shorter and more experimental exhibitions featuring artists not on the gallery’s roster.
“Right now, if I see something really exciting that I want to show, I have to wait two years,” Dams explained. “The whole purpose is to free us up. There is pressure, but this is our relief. We can give people chances they wouldn’t normally get to show, and have fun ourselves.” He hopes the plan will restore the energy that the space had in 2008, when it hosted a long series of 24-hour exhibitions by lesser-known artists as a response to what Dams saw as conservative, market-oriented displays by other galleries.
Santiago, a cult figure in the art and fashion worlds who created the S&M-inflected masks for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibition, will christen the new space. Before Dams has installed walls — or, in fact, done much of anything to make the space less raw — Santiago will take over, installing sequined boxes along the walls that visitors can peek through (they hold futuristic robots). A massive bomb sculpture will screen videos in the basement, while an illuminated upside-down pentagram — shown earlier this summer at the Watermill Center’s annual benefit — will light up the upstairs space.
After Santiago’s exhibition closes in October, Polish performance artist Martynka Wawrzyniak will construct a chamber in the raw space, inside of which she will release a cocktail of aromas that resemble her own biological scent.
Envoy enterprises has maintained two spaces before: In 2006, Dams ran both a Chelsea space and the Lower East Side location. It didn’t take long for him to realize it wasn’t sustainable. “We closed Chelsea in 2007 because the amount of visitors we were getting on the Lower East Side was so much higher,” he said. “When people go to Chelsea, you go to Matthew Marks, Gagosian, Paula Cooper. When you’re done with all of that, you go home, because you’re tired. Everything else is left out.”
With the profusion of galleries on the Lower East Side, is he nervous the same fate might become of smaller spaces there? “It will never be like Chelsea because this is a neighborhood,” he said. “Even if you put one gallery next to another, you won’t get that art fair feeling. That makes all the difference.”
Desi Santiago's “This Pop Is Perfection” runs September 13-October 14 at envoy enterprises.