Vito Schnabel: Decision to Close Art Show Was Only Out of Concern For 190 Bowery

190 Bowery, May 15.
190 Bowery, May 15.

It’s been a couple of weeks since that infamous scene outside 190 Bowery, the former Germania Bank Building, in which hundreds of people were turned away from Vito Schnabel’s allegedly public art show inside one of the Lower East Side’s most intriguing buildings. Since that time, a couple thousand people have been admitted (by appointment) to view the exhibition. This morning, there’s a piece in the Times looking at the art and offering the perspective of Schnabel, the latest poster boy of Bowery gentrification.

The 14 pieces in the show, including new work by Harmony Korine and never-before-seen pieces by Ron Gorchov, came mostly from Mr. Schnabel’s collection. Only a few were for sale; his idea was simply to hang art that he wanted to see together. A pair of purple Julian Schnabel (Vito’s dad) paintings, made this year, are displayed opposite an old church pew. “They’re images of his studio floor that he painted these purple clouds over,” his son said, “and when I saw them I kind of felt like I was looking at Earth from a satellite.”

From GILF's Instagram feed.
From GILF’s Instagram feed.

The piece makes note of Tuesday’s art happening outside 190 Bowery in which the street artist GILF hung yellow police tape emblazoned with the words “Gentrification in Progress” outside the building. As for the “confusion” surrounding the May 15 opening reception, Schnabel told the Times it was simply a matter of crowd control:

What was initially billed as a public opening on May 16 quickly became a V.I.P. affair when hundreds of people showed up. Mr. Schnabel and his staff decided the crowd was too large, and had security guards and hostesses turn many of them away, while friend-of-Schnabel guests were welcomed, including the art patron Agnes Gund, the actress Dakota Johnson and Heidi Klum, Mr. Schnabel’s girlfriend. Mr. Schnabel said his concern was only protecting the space and the art; to help regulate the crowds, the exhibition has since been open by appointment through Mr. Schnabel’s website.

The decision to close the opening to the masses was not, of course, made when Schnabel saw the large crowds swarming outside 190 Bowery. As previously reported, it happened a day or two beforehand, leading to speculation that this was all a PR stunt by Mr. Schnabel.

What’s next for 190 Bowery? Aby Rosen, the new owner, has not yet announced a commercial tenant for the ground floor space. But renovations are expected to begin soon. Rosen purchased the graffiti-adorned building for $55 million and has leased the upper floors to a creative agency.