Thursday, November 14, 2013

[UPDATED] About Whale and Crown, a new exhibition space in a former deli on Avenue C

rae bk food center
[Photo by Mark White.]

You may have seen the transformation of the former deli on Avenue C at East 12th Street … it was turned into a gallery space late last month for Brooklyn-based artist RAE. The show opened on Oct. 26.

Turns out the space is the idea of East Village resident Jim Chu, the longtime owner of several bars at 145 E. Houston St., most recently White Rabbit, which closed in August.

"It didn't take long for me to come up with something more fun and less commercial," he said of what he's calling Whale & Crown, a space for art and exhibitions at 656 E. 12th St. at Avenue C.

We asked Chu a few questions about the space.

Were you purposefully looking for something less commercial after White Rabbit... or did this just kind of fall into place?

I didn't know what exactly I was going to do after White Rabbit, but I needed something more organic, without the pressure to be commercial. The business I left on Houston Street in 2013 was very different than the one I started on 11th street between B and C in 1992. I have never been the person to build 'coolness,' make a scene or any of that. I ran places where my neighbors came in and my neighbors were doing cool things so cool things were happening on their own.

When my rent got to $15,000, there isn't room for anything organic. About a month after I closed White Rabbit my friend approached me about the bodega around the corner from my apartment, and it encapsulated all of these ideas.

What's the thinking behind Whale & Crown?

Although the opportunity originally came to me through a neighbor, Whale & Crown is a shared opportunity. There's no way it was possible to do this on my own — so I called on a great group of designers, entrepreneurs and artists and everything came together in less than a month. We lucked into an amazing space that is in limbo, but perfect for experimentation. RAE had mentioned an idea of this installation he wanted to do in a bodega more than two years ago. I always told him it was impossible, but this was a perfect fit.

What kinds of events/exhibits do you want to see in the space?

The space is a resource. We have ideas and sometimes we'll use it for them. The rest of the time the space will be occupied by people we know, people we meet, friends of friends, strangers that reach out to us with the kind of idea that we latch onto. In many ways it's like an exquisite corpse — each contributor adds their part to the conversation.

Meanwhile, you can still catch RAE's exhibit through Saturday.

Exhibition hours:
Thursday - Saturday 2 pm-7 pm.


The space is now called Specials on C


Anonymous said...

I'm into it!

A little while ago I said...

That is really cool. I hope it remains. It's a great concept for allowing local artists to have rotating shows.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

This is a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Jim is a great person and my old landlord. He is really stand up guy and I hope this space succeeds long term. Hi Jim! Melissa

John Kobeck said...

Great idea! I would love to exhibit my work there