While many Downtown galleries are following the Uptown migration, the long-anticipated arrival of Lisson Gallery, the London-based contemporary art stalwart, has chosen the classic Chelsea experience. Well, classic with a twist.
An architectural collaboration between Christian Wassmann and Studio MDA founder Markus Dochantschi, the gallery spans from 23rd to 24th streets, right underneath a swath of the High Line. Two parallel skylights run almost the entire length of the building, providing an openness that contrasts nicely against the solidity of the two-foot-thick poured concrete floor. It is a design that embraces Chelsea’s new commercial footprint without forgetting its industrial heritage. “The key thing is to give the gallery as much flexibility as possible,” says Dochantschi, who also designed nearby 303 Gallery and Paul Kasmin Gallery. “The space is almost like a stage in regards to its need to be subdivided and lit.”
While theatrical in its interior grandeur, the new building asserts itself without taking away from the neighborhood’s warehouse aesthetic. Unlike the new residential towers that revised the skyline, Wassmann and Dochantschi’s design respects the horizontality of the native architecture, which once played home to auto-body shops. “We made a building that has a permanent look and a very simple cast-in-place concrete facade,” Wassmann says of their joint project. “As you enter the space we stay obviously in the background. Architecture for galleries is not about the big statement. It’s a building that serves the art and makes it look good.”
It won’t be hard to make Lisson’s opening act, Carmen Herrera, shine. The beloved painter, who will turn 101 years old on May 31, is a force to be reckoned with: Her 80-year career outdates all of the surrounding galleries. Made over the past two years, the 20-painting show will foreshadow Herrera’s upcoming retrospective at the Whitney. As Herrera’s first solo New York show in six years, the inaugural exhibition demonstrates the gap Lisson hopes to fill in the city’s ever-evolving art scene. “It has been a long-held ambition of Lisson Gallery to consolidate our presence in New York with a permanent exhibition space,” International Director Alex Logsdail says. “By adding to the two existing locations in London and one in Milan, Lisson Gallery New York gives our current roster of 51 artists another key platform to realize their ambitious projects and engage with new collectors, critics and curators, as well as the public.”
With an artist representation that overlaps with existing galleries in New York, Lisson plans to collaborate with their new neighbors, including a joint Ai Weiwei exhibition with long-time resident Mary Boone Gallery.