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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Art in the Corporate Space

Midtown corporate lobbies host some of the most overlooked exhibition spaces in the city. On a walk that took me almost straight across town last weekend, I passed six spaces showing notable work. Four feature rotating exhibitions. The other two are permanent installations of important pieces.

UBS Gallery, 1285 Avenue of the Americas (between 51st and 52nd): Art loving UBS has created a large gallery space in its lobby that often features unusual exhibitions. I’ve seen interesting work by emerging artists, ab ex painting, and art from the subway system featured in the space. Currently on view is Great Pots: The Vessel as Art 1900-2000, Twentieth-Century Ceramics from the Newark Museum.

Detail from Thomas Hart Benton's America Today, 1930-31AXA, 1290 Avenue of the Americas (between 51st and 52nd): Across the street from UBS, the international insurance firm AXA permanently displays Thomas Hart Benton’s mural America Today from 1930-31 (detail at right). Originally commissioned by the New School for Social Research, the piece was sold in 1982 when the school realized it could not care for it as needed. The Equitable (a company purchased some years ago by AXA) bought the piece for its lobby in 1984.

Gallery W52, 31 W. 52nd St. (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues): Dinaburg Arts curates this space located near MoMA. Often showing work by emerging artists, the gallery currently has on display an exhibition entitled Beyond Pastoral featuring work by seven contemporary artists who use landscape to address cultural or psychological states. Interpretative essays for shows in this space are often written by the best-dressed member of the art blogosphere.

Lever House, 390 Park Avenue (between 53rd and 54th): What’s probably my favorite building in midtown is a work of art in itself. In recent years, though, building owner and mega-collector Aby Rosen has turned the lobby into a showcase for work by contemporary artists. Currently on display is an army of 96 inflatable Incredible Hulks; some red, white, blue, and green fluorescent stars; beach toys; ladders; fencing; paintings; and popcorn in lit vitrines. Jeff Koons is responsible for this disaster of an installation.

Louise Nevelson, ChapelSt. Peter’s Church, 619 Lexington Avenue (entrance on 54th St. between Lexington and Third Avenues): Long known for its support of contemporary art and performance, this church tucked into the Citigroup Center boasts one of the most sublime spaces in midtown. In 1977 the church commissioned Louise Nevelson to design The Erol Beker Chapel of the Good Shepherd (at right). Her white on white room is only large enough for 28 seats, but the environment creates a psychic space that rivals the great cathedrals. Sadly, the installation is in need of restoration.

The Lipstick Building, 885 Third Avenue (between 53rd and 54th): I only stumbled across the art in this space on my way to a meeting last week. I’m not sure if the building has created a regular art program, but the exhibition on view now of work by Phoebe Washburn, Olav Westphalen, and Taylor McKinen is worth seeing. I liked Washburn's piece, 2 BLT's (bought and lovely towns), better than her 2004 installation at LFL which garnered so much critical praise.

Readers' Favorite Corporate Art Spaces in Midtown (feel free to e-mail with others that I missed in the post above):

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