Storefront for Art and Architecture Celebrates 30 Years of Breaking Barriers

Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2011
(Courtesy Storefront for Art and Architecture/ Photo by Brett Beyer)

NEW YORK — Since 1983, the impossibly small venue on the corner of Kenmare and Cleveland place has been a point of overlap of many things: SoHo and Nolita for starters, then art and architecture, which is where it found its name. Architect Kyong Park founded the Storefront for Art and Architecture and co-ran it with his wife, Shirin Neshat, as an experimental “gallery and meeting place for designers and architects,” as Vito Acconci recently described it to ARTINFO, where “people go to see a conversation and end up talking to each other.” 

In 1992, the Storefront’s points of intersection came to include inside and outside, as Park and Neshat commissioned Steven Holl and Acconci (“an architect wanting to do art, and a so-called ‘art-doer’ doing architecture,” as Acconci put it) to transform the Storefront’s exterior. The two cut open the façade of the irregularly-shaped space, 17 feet across at its widest, four feet at its narrowest, and put hinges on the resulting windows, doors, and exhibition platforms. The ensuing permeability between the interior and the sidewalk continues to emulate that of the Storefront’s genres to this day.

Since its founding, the unconventional space has lent itself to 30 years of thought-provoking exhibitions. “Storefront allows architects to take risks outside disciplinary labels,” Eva Franch i Gilabert, Storefront director since 2010, told ARTINFO. “Architecture, in the largest sense of the term, is the only discipline responsible to articulate all other disciplines and degrees of expertise in the construction of a better future. Storefront is not an architecture institution, is a think-tank that allows us to think differently about the world and the way we act in it.” In 1983 the space showed an exhibtion on pollution in the Gowanus Canal, and in 1984, Lebbeus Woods alongside Neil Denari when they both unbuilt architects; in 1987 the Storefront put together the first solo show of Diller + Scofidio, long before the advent of either Charles Renfro or the High Line; and last year, in the midst of the Hurricane Sandy blackout, they held a panel discussion on the concept of darkness and encouraged visitors to bring flashlights. 

This Friday, Storefront celebrates 30 years of out-of-the-box programing and gives special honors to artist-architect hybrids Yona Friedman, Mary Miss, and Steven Holl at its “Thirty Something” anniversary gala. Taking place at none other than the mythic Temple Court, the Financial District’s hidden, decaying palace otherwise known as 5 Beekman, the gala invites guests to wander nine stories of crumbling Victorian architecture while bidding at the silent auction. There will also be canapés, of course.

Furthering the thematic confluence of art and architecture, the works include watercolors by Holl; a Tom Sachs sketch of “The Open Hand of Chandigargh,” a monument of the Indian city Le Corbusier envisioned; musings on pavilion design scrawled on a napkin by Dan Graham, an early Storefront exhibitor; and a Louis Khan rough draft of the Phillips Exeter Academy Library. A Brett Beyer photograph of the iconic Woolworth building taken through the glass roof of 5 Beekman is a highlight from “Visions,” a series in which five photographers captured the final days of the space’s colossal, corroded beauty before it’s turned over to developers to be transformed into a luxury hotel. Bidding continues online until midnight Thursday evening, and recommences during the gala on Friday

To see a selection of lots from the Storefront for Art and Architecture’s “Thirty Something” auction, with works by Shirin Neshat, Rackstraw Downes, Snarkitecture, and others, click the slideshow