So it was the middle of the week, when I found myself outside The Tally Beck Contemporary Gallery for its grand opening. I decided that I would try and be early, which was dashed by my need to find some form of stomach sustenance. So, I watched the many tall, bobbed, cat framed glasses wearing people enter in through the red carpet while trying to down a dollar bag of barbeque chips from the sidewalk. I tried to keep it classy.
I took my time with the walk across the red carpet. The velvet ropes were open and there wasn’t a cameraman in sight, still I figured that this might be the only chance I had to be on a red carpet, so I proceeded with inner excitement as one hand combed through my hair and the other held a crumpled potato chip bag.
The opening showcased a collective of artists from Shanghai called island6. The group’s unique work is known for its use of digital media and sex, which was perfect for an exhibit that was called Sin City- Impressions of Shanghai: New Work by island6.
As I descended down the steps, I felt like the floating bubble amongst a tank of exotic fish. It was like an all out assault from the art world. The patrons all walked around like they themselves were art. A girl with a neon flashing corset and bra that lay overtop the classic little black dress, stood in front of an Anna Wintour twin. A tall Nordic looking man (a struggling actor) smiled at me from behind the bar while sliding over a plastic cup of ginger ale and some shrimp chips. The food was compliments of the Dumpling Diva, a woman standing behind the bar wearing an oversized Lapis colored hunting hat with an apron.
It was a far cry from the tailored world of the Men’s Warehouse carbon copies I was used to seeing parade the halls of work. The pretension was a bit thick, but overall, I felt nothing but delight as I made my way through the tank like gallery.
The exhibit was composed of twelve different pieces that included neon light work, telephone interactive video, and LED based creations, and that’s light-emitting diode not the carbon metal.
According to the Tally Beck Contemporary website, this exhibition explores the realities and myths of 1930s Shanghai, focusing on female sexuality and issues of exoticism, eroticism and Orientalism. Island6 produces animated, sociohistorical vignettes of 1930s Shanghai and the collision of Chinese and colonial cultures. Their work has been shown extensively in Asia and Oceania as well as in art fairs and special exhibitions in the U.S., France, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and Morocco.
I found myself in front of a sketch that looked like an old photograph of a woman, a hooker from the 30’s I presumed or rather made up for my own enjoyment. Everyone finds hooker’s melodramatic and interesting much like the image I stood in front. She sat on her side facing me in black and white, her body forever frozen in the allure of her beauty’s peak. Her feet radiated with her own pair of ruby slippers, but these shoes were more likely reflecting the decadent charm of the red light district that she worked at as opposed to using them to wander down a yellow brick road. She held in her hand a long stem cigarette holder that burned with a matching red stream of smoke that belly-danced up the picture frame. The dancing light gave the illusion that her cigarette was burning. She was willing to pose in a picture with me and my friends.
The evening ended when I was headed towards the coat check. My friend and I were commenting on the tall, pretty, blond girl, of print model beauty.
“You are far too attractive to be relegated to the corner pocket. Why did they put you all the way back here,” I said.
“Well, I figured, I’d give the other girl a chance to get out of the corner,” she said.
“Nobody puts baby in the corner,” my friend said as he slid into his coat.
“She’s my cousin you know. Jennifer Grey is,” she said.
Her sincerity was so obvious I couldn’t help but believe her. It was the proverbial cherry onto top of the cake for an evening of culture that took me far from my stereotypical culture of New Jersey. I managed to score a triple threat of free champagne, a t-shirt, and meeting celebrity’s relatives…and there was art.
To visit the Tally Beck Contemporary Gallery go to 42 Rivington Street New York, NY 10002 or call +1 646-678-3433
I give the Sin City Exhibit PPP’s out of PPPP.