Stroll down historic Washington Street in New York’s Meatpacking District and prepare to do a double take. An electric new space with vibrant nostalgic paintings, modern design and an unlimited candy bar sits in the shadow of The Standard Hotel. This is not a trade show, but rather the latest exhibition from renowned visual artist Jojo Anavim. The show, aptly titled “No Purchase Necessary,” is a space most New York art watchers or globetrotters are unfamiliar with. Abandoning the existing gallery model, the space is relaxed, free-spirited and welcoming.
An interview with Anavim about his buzzy new show follows:
Why did you decide to mount an exhibition now?
Summer in the city is a bit unusual. So many locals are out of town and there aren’t many art openings until the fall. My friend Sara, who represents the owner, contacted me this spring and offered me a potential collaboration for the summer. Given the proximity to the Whitney Museum, The Highline and all the great restaurants, this seemed like the perfect fit and a great way to get in front of a more international audience.
In a city with so many art galleries, many of which are close to yours, how is yours different?
The space is meant to be the opposite of a pompous Chelsea art gallery. The atmosphere is loungey, almost like a large room. While the artwork is for sale, the “No Purchase Necessary” theme has a double meaning where you can peek and enjoy the art without the unwelcome attitude that some might be used to browse through area galleries. The alternate meaning of the show’s name is inspired by all the contests I used to enter when I was a kid. They usually lived on the back of cereal or ice cream boxes. The fine print still says “No Purchase Necessary” and the artwork channels that magical optimism of the chance to win big.
Tell us about the art on display.
The pieces reflect my childhood and my adolescence. They represent the brands I have known, seen, consumed and loved. They exude a very positive energy and as one visitor said “Why does everything have to be so serious?” No matter how much access one may have as an adult, I think it’s impossible to recreate the feeling of that Saturday morning bowl of cereal or a Chipwich on a hot summer’s day as as a child, so these paintings were my outlet to try to re-visit those experiences.
Your art, in many ways, pays homage to New York. Does your gallery do the same and how?
One could be forgiven if they walked into the exhibit and thought it was a bodega or a grocery store (kidding of course). None of the works were based directly on NYC, but they definitely nod to the old Pepsi machines I used to see near the 1 train, or the claw and arcade machines that had been so popular in neighborhood pizzerias ever since. so long.
What about other amenities such as drinks and food? How do they find their way there and how are they linked to art?
Part of the show’s ethos is to engage more than your visual senses. There’s a free candy bar stocked with favorites like M&M’s and Twizzlers, (no purchase necessary) and if you’re lucky and come for happy hour we have an open bar complimented by my friends at Laneta Tequila, which is amazing. It creates a really fun summer atmosphere.
Will you organize events and other activations? Tell us about these.
We have held several private events, most recently for Lazzoni who also furnished the space beautifully. I also hosted an NBA player’s birthday party the other night, and we have other private events planned through August.
How is this exhibition different from the standard model of an art gallery?
The way it all fell into place was really fortuitous. RFR, owner of the building, is a big supporter of the arts and has such a rich history in New York. When they and Mona Retail approached me about a collaboration, it wasn’t obvious. The space is much more than a traditional gallery. It’s a place to come and relax for our friends, family, see existing collectors and meet new ones. There’s nothing pretentious about it – it has such a laid-back vibe that anyone who walks in feels right at home.