The architectural minimalism of Gagosian 541 West 24th Street

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Gagosian 541 West 24th Street shows the architectural simplicity of Caplan Colaku

Gagosian 541 West 24th Street in New York shows off its sophisticated space, by Caplan Colaku Architecture, with “Forgiving and Forgetting” by Damien Hirst

Of Gagosian’s 19 locations worldwide, his latest Manhattan gallery, Gagosian 541 West 24th Street in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, flew under the radar, having opened in March 2020, just weeks before the city is closed. The relative obscurity of space 541 belies its hard-hitting roster of shows, which included Ed Ruscha, Gerhard Richter, John Currin, Brice Marden and, starting this month, Damien Hirst, with a body of work titled ” Forgive and forget”, which made its debut in Rome in 2021.

Gagosian has ample square footage in the neighborhood, including a commanding pied-à-terre at 555 West 24th Street (home to its most ambitious programming, such as last year’s “Social Works” hosted by Antwaun Sargent), and another space on West 21st Street. But the space at 541 West 24th Street has a refined, shifting quality that seems to have resonated with the aforementioned big names in art.

There’s an element of provenance – the space used to house two galleries, the legendary Mary Boone Gallery and the ever illustrious Pace Gallery (the latter moved to larger premises a block north). But the new resident’s appeal is more likely due to its sophisticated renovation by Caplan Colaku Architecture, the New York firm that has collaborated with Gagosian on a recurring basis over the years. Caplan Colaku also oversaw the redesign of Gagosian’s uptown space at 980 Madison Avenue, and is currently completing the gallery offices just above.

Installation view of Damien Hirst: “Forgive and Forget”, at the new Gagosian Gallery at 541 West 24th Street

“What’s unique about gallery design is that it’s an entirely empty space that’s effectively invisible,” says Jonathan Caplan, a true gallery specialist given his past work with the Bass Museum in Miami, Gladstone Gallery and Petzel Gallery in New York, as well as numerous exhibition projects. “Invisibility is an interesting challenge in itself, especially when the space must also be able to show very different types of exhibitions from month to month: giant abstract paintings, miniature portraits, monumental sculptures, ephemeral installations , film, performance, light works. , collective exhibitions.

“Designing a gallery is in some ways [designing] a church hall or school gymnasium, which has the potential to be a badminton court, basketball court, running track, dance floor, meeting hall, vaccination center, theatre, a place of worship, a polling station, an examination room, a storage space. But the similarity ends at the diversity, because other multi-programmatic spaces don’t need to be both neutral and non-distracting, and at the same time full of character and likeable.

Jonathan Caplan and Mani Colaku, co-founders of Caplan Colaku Architecture

At 541 West 24th Street, the firm refreshed the street-level space by combining two distinct areas and concealing some of the distinctive features that had remained, including historic timber trusses and an exposed terraced ceiling. In its place, a clean horizontal plane extends to the light skylight of the space, which in turn hovers above the length of the double-height gallery.

The mixture of volumes contracts and expands elegantly at different points in the space, often opening up to sources of natural light, whether in the main gallery space or the more introspective ancillary space, where the skylight has been manipulated and reconfigured to ensure an even distribution of natural light below.

Damien Hirst: ‘Forgive and Forget’, installation view at Gagosian 541 West 24th Street

In such a setting, Hirst’s mixture of sculptures of cartoon characters, made of white Carrara marble and pink Portuguese marble, and new Reverence Paintings take on an otherworldly aura. Caplan says it was important to'[anticipate] how all kinds of works of art, sometimes from very different eras and many of which have not yet been imagined, [could] each is shown to its best effect. The space itself [needs] to provide a sense of continuity and permanence through time, with its particular character and atmosphere, maintaining a modest attitude while embodying and expressing the gallery’s mission and identity as an organisation.

He adds: “The points of differentiation evolve in part from the data of the site itself and the existing conditions of the property, notably the proportions of the space. In the case of 541, we could say that the particularity we were looking for was simplicity and sobriety. We wanted [give] to bloom [to] space, and make it emotionally lighter by reducing it to a feeling of space and light. §

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