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Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/mt 23

Swanky pop-up art show spreads the gentrification love on the Bowery

Written by
Howard Halle

If you follow the comings and goings of New York real estate, you may have heard of 190 Bowery and Abbey Rosen. But if not, well, 190 Bowery is an ornate Renaissance Revival building on the corner of Spring Street. Built in 1898, it was formerly home to Germania Bank, which originally opened in the 1860s to serve the largely German community that made the area known as Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany, during the 19th century. Over the past 50 years, it housed the live/work quarters of photographer Jay Maisel. Being a private home, people were no longer allowed inside. The building was landmarked in 2005, but by then, it had already become a different sort of landmark for fanciers of street art, thanks to the graffiti that covered the outside of the ground floor. Maisel never bothered to remove them.

As for Abby Rosen, well, he's a real estate mogul, who recently acquired 190 Bowery. His other properties include such midtown icons as Lever House and the Seagrams Building. He's a also a major art collector with very specific tastes. For example, it was Rosen who controversially decided to evict Picasso's magisterial tapestry Le Tricorne from the entrance of the famous Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagrams Building, where it had resided since 1959 (Patrons used to call the hallway leading to the eatery "Picasso Alley.") Rosen dismissed the piece as "schmatte," deciding the space would be better served by works from his own collection, which contains the likes of Jeff Koons.

Similarly, Rosen has made short work of the graffiti at the base of 190 Bowery, buffing the walls in preparation for its transformation into an office building. But art remains on the menu, at least temporarily. Dealer Vito Schnabel has curated a show of seven artists, including Joe Bradley, Dan Colen, Jeff Elrod, Ron Gorchov, Mark Grotjahn, Harmony Korine and his own father, Julian Schnabel. Rosen maintains a gallery at Lever House, which features a program of changing exhibitions of contemporary art, including, again, works from his own collection. But given the title of Schnabel's exhibit—"First Show/Last Show"—it doesn't seem like a similar amenity is in the cards for 190 Bowery, which seems like a shame. But then, Rosen probably doesn't need another place to show the art he owns. In the meantime, "First Show/Last Show" opens to the public tomorrow and is up until May 29. You'll not only get a chance to see art, but also the building's interior, which has been hidden from view for half a century.    

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