Reporting and photos by Stacie Joy
The EVAC is in the works for 215 First Ave. just south of 13th Street.
According to Steve Hirsch, who's opening the EVAC (East Village Art Collection), the space will be an art gallery with music, spoken word, painting, sculpture, photography and "maybe even a small Calder show."
"We want to work with the community and showcase East Village artists," said Hirsch, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as having a 25-plus year career in apparel design and merchandising and being "an industry innovator." "There are no galleries on First Avenue in this area." moved to this storefront from 11th Street last month, will not be continuing on from this location — after just one day in business.
According to Hirsch, who was involved with securing the new FlyeLyfe storefront with the goal of expanding the brand: "We had a change in the business plan. We're no longer working with P.J. O'Rourke — we're going in a different direction."
And this quick turn of events took O'Rourke by surprise. In an interview and subsequent email exchange, O'Rourke described his version of the story. He didn't mention Hirsch by name, referring to him instead as his "so-called business partner," who first bought a print from O'Rourke when he was still hustling his T-shirts, hats and other original designs from the L train.
Hirsch, he said, helped him secure the first FlyeLyfe storefront on 11th Street before Avenue A and First Avenue.
"When it came time to scale up, he offered 215 First Ave. if we signed a partnership. I obliged hesitantly, but obliged nonetheless based on his word of helping it scale 'worldwide.' The new LLC was signed on Jan. 26, and the grand opening was March 19," O'Rourke said. "After hiring a few employees, he decided to make a very authoritarian person in charge of handling and managing employees. The employees were intimidated amongst other things with 'even if you’re not here, you're being filmed.' All this time of preparation, my job was to be the artist and not worry about any of the management and set up at the shop."
O'Rourke said that he "had to put faith and trust into the process." While the grand opening day on March 19 was a success, a "verbal altercation" the night before between a friend of O'Rourke's and Hirsch at the storefront apparently soured relations. Hirsch and the "authoritarian person" allegedly said that the friend wasn't welcome in the space.
Later on the opening day, according to O'Rourke, his "business partner" then shut down the space.
"I immediately left ... in complete shock. I even came back a couple of hours later and was berated by the authoritarian figure and completely undermined. He said 'you just fucked up, I have been talking to local artists, and we have no problem turning this into an artist space without you,'" per O'Rourke. "I went back to get my stuff ... Not only had they locked me out, but my belongings were also inside and my partner told me it was his. They papered up the entire store, and now a couple of weeks later, they are trying a fly-by-the-seat art gallery, while leaving my livelihood at stake. And that's factually what has happened to me at this point. I really just need to get my stuff back so I can make my living again."
In a follow-up call, Hirsch, whose LinkedIn profile lists him as director of operations for FlyeLyfe, denied this version of the events.
"I have no comment on what Mr. O'Rourke had to say. Mr. O'Rourke's statements are not facts," Hirsch said. "He presented his version of the story, I presented something different."
He then ended the call by saying "this conversation is over."
This story is a perfect example of why words / phrases like "working with the community" should be outlawed. Who are these people? On the basis of this story, if I were an artist, I would stay miles away from them. I have been impressed while walking around with the galleries that are operating on East 2nd Street (alerted to at least one by an EVG story). These people--watch your back.
Well this sucks!
Time to lawyer up!
Consider it a blessing PJ. This crew seems whack. Looking forward to the return of the donut shop...
Talk about an inauspicious opening. This galley could be the next Empire Biscuit. It has all the makings of a really bad reality TV show. They can call it “This Conversation Is Over.”
This reminds me of “The Restaurant”, the really bad reality TV show starring Rocco DiSpirito about his short-lived restaurant on 22nd St. and Broadway. The place was really hot for about a minute and it was closed a year later. And then Rocco basically disappeared from planet earth. Anthony Bourdain even created an award in his honor for most wasted restaurant career. Somebody better call NBC in a hurry and sign these guys up.
This is how Eater brilliantly covered one of the greatest public meltdowns of all time:
"Rocco DiSpirito’s post-show trajectory is familiar: He went into the wilderness of television, racking up 92 credits as “Himself” on IMDb. He hawked frozen Bertolli dinners and cookware on QVC, wrote successful cookbooks, and did the occasional private dinner. He made it through the foxtrot and Viennese waltz on Dancing with the Stars. He was well-known, but within the industry, his name was synonymous with wasted potential: In 2007, writer Michael Ruhlman and the late Anthony Bourdain created a Golden Clog award called the “Rocco” to commemorate the “Worst Career Move by a Talented Chef.” A year later, Jeff Gordinier would write in the New York Times that “the word ‘sad’ seems to surface a lot when you bring up Mr. DiSpirito’s curious career arc.”
And now, the punchline: The Restaurant was NBC’s first attempt to take a minor New York celebrity and turn him into a global icon; it wound up nearly ruining the man’s life. But one year later, Mark Burnett and Jamie Bruce tried again, with a different minor New York celebrity, on a new show. They called it The Apprentice."
Good luck PJ! Hope you get your stuff back!
I agree with the first comment that this story should serve as a word of caution to any artists or others who are considering working with these people. What is their history and track record working with artists or "the community." Doesn't seem very professional.
PJ has changed my life. I came to the East Village as an artist and he really has been so generous with his advice and experience and story telling. He was my first real friend in the United States. He has a confidence in his work that is unbreakable and a body of art that he can proudly stand behind. I am devastated to read this article, because I know how hard he has worked. It is hard to hang out with him anymore, all he ever does is make art and of course, it shows. Its so sad that an “experienced business man” who i am assuming is a lot older than the artist can take such a huge advantage with his money hungry ways. Why is he talking about a Calder exhibition when he’s displaying the shittiest artwork in the East Village on his walls. It sounds like he’s over compensating if you catch my drift......... this is extremely embarrassing for this Hirsch guy. PJ is not someone to sleep on. Good luck finding a more passionate, business savvy and smart artist to work with. What a joke.
Love you PJ, good luck my man!
PJ has a story to tell and I believe him. Hirsch says the story is not true, but in place of offering an alternate version, he gives a lame generic different direction reason. He is definitely going a different direction (resembling down), But that is no reason to steal PJs work and designs and equipment and refuse to give them back. And because he is going a different direction, he obviously does not need those things. Seems like the reason is emotional — vindictiveness and greed. It’s not just that he’s going another direction, it’s also that he’s trying to harm PJ.
No artist should agree to have their work displayed in Hirsch‘s venue, and judging by what’s hanging on the walls, so far no artist has.
Do the right thing, Hirsch. Karma can be a real bummer.
Putting the EVAC in EVACUATE!!!!!
Shame on any artist who would work with Hirsch, and dealers like him, letting him use your work to build his own credibility & business. It will end in tears. Best of luck to PJ.
What a POS this Hirsch sounds like. PJ has been nothing but honest in all of my dealings with him. Terrible development because this spot is right around the corner from my apartment. Whatever is currently on display is a total eyesore!
My brief experience visiting flyelyfe when he was on 11th street was a very positive one. He had a wide array of designs and mashups commenting not only on New York but also the pandemic. The person staffing the store was very outgoing and cheerful. I was surprised that a street artist could have his own store in this day and age, though another artist had a store on that street years ago. When Flyelyfe moved to the store on 1st, I was surprised yet again that a local artist could swing an even higher rent location. But when the Bitcoin sign went up, and I knew something had changed. If there's ever something that makes me see red, it's stories about artists getting pushed around, especially by authoritarian tech bros. What soulless fraudsters they are. I saw Flyelyfe's spray cans, cart, and ladder in there. But they had been pushed to the side like they were about to be tossed out. EVAC appears to be a cheap NFT cash grab now. I hope that their reputation precedes them wherever they go.
PJ’s talent is unparalleled.
I’m glad to see many are rallying behind him.
Big fan of PJ's art career and trajectory and this jerk won't stop him. Glad this story "told all sides" and let us decide who's authentic. Because anyone that's connected with PJ and his artworks knows he's an artist for the people first.
Yo wtf.this is super fucked up pj been working harder than anyone to get his dreams to come true then you have these slimey vultures trying to steal from a honest artist.
Im sure after this debacle, PJ has acquired more than enough savvy to ensure the holistic integrity of his endeavors are respected. Whether he realizes it or not, PJ is going through a typical experience of a business owner who creates their own soulful work and believes earnestly in it. This situation was not a raw spectactle worthy of a cackle, it is a demonstration of how the greedy and poor and spirit can never cage a true artist who has passion. In an effect, this is a living demonstration of PJs artistic intent and I would not be surprised if this spectacle is a divine work portrayed on a mortal canvas.
Lol as someone aware of the situation for the last few months I can confidently say that PJs version of events is not a true representation of what led to the fallout between Steve and PJ. Went to a show at EVAC. A few weeks ago and the vibe was great, very talented musicians, cool people there in attendance. Looking forward to seeing more there. I think Steve is keeping his comments brief because he doesn’t want to slander PJ publicly, no one is happy with how things turned out. Good luck to PJ in his future endeavors and I hope he learns from it, but you know what they say about the artists Ego
Actually PJ Is being somewhat circumspect in his truthful telling of the events. Ironically, considering the above comment, Hirsch Abruptly shut the operation down, locked out PJ,’s access to his artwork and equipment, because he felt his ego was bruised on opening night. As I am acutely aware of the facts surrounding this incident, I see the above comment as a rather late coming and absolutely inept attempt at public relations spin. The idea that the above comment is true and the fact that PJ has been locked out of his equipment and artwork do not exist anywhere within a logical framework. There are ample witnesses to the facts and none of them besides Hirsch and his boy wonder would support the above fabrication and it’s saccharine sincerity. I think karma willl have the last word here. Meanwhile, caveat artists!
Post a Comment