Gallery Hopping ‘The Real Estate Show’ Revival on the Lower East Side

ABC No Rio. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

By Lori Greenberg

As we reported recently, four Lower East Side galleries are hosting installations which pay tribute to the groundbreaking 1979-1980 Real Estate Show.

The original historic exhibit was created by a group of artists who took over a vacant city-owned building at 123 Delancey Street. Mere days after opening up the show to the public, the powers-that-be padlocked the doors. As a result of this fiasco, the artists group Colab (Collaborative Projects) was given another space on Rivington Street to continue their show. That 1980 exhibit planted the seed for a permanent arts space that eventually morphed into ABC No Rio.

The current incarnation of The Real Estate Show re-examines the same theme of unaffordable housing and grim economic conditions facing residents in New York City. Many of the same complaints and issues exist nearly 35 years later.

We visited all four galleries, which included original and updated Colab work along with work by other artists.

Poster by Andy Baird at The James Fuentes Gallery. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

The James Fuentes Gallery was the first to kick off the series (The Real Estate Show, Was Then: 1980), closely followed by ABC No Rio (RESx). After Fuentes, who grew up in the neighborhood, came up with the idea of reviving the Real Estate Show, the two institutions worked in tandem, sharing ABC No Rio’s rich archives. The other galleries joined in soon after.

Fuentes featured original and updated work from members of Colab. One of the gallery walls showcased a piece by Becky Howland which depicted a giant octopus, greedily grabbing up buildings. This piece of artwork had been displayed on the outside of 123 Delancey for the original show. Despite being pasted to an outer wall of a building around 35 years ago, part of the work had managed to survive, and the artist was recently able to fill in the rest.

ABC No Rio. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

ABC No Rio also features a mix of original work, recreated pieces and newer art. The participating artists were also invited to keep adding work to the show during the duration of the exhibit so that, in keeping with the spirit of the original Colab show, it continues to evolve and grow over time. We loved the exterior of the building which had signs exclaiming typical real estate cliches such as “Updated Classic” and “Sun Drenched Views.”

The Lodge Gallery was the third gallery to join the series, with curators Keith Schweitzer and Jason Patrick Voegele asking the original Colab artists to respond to the theme (and title of their show), No City Is An Island. Participating artists include John Ahearn, Charlie Ahearn, Jody Culkin, Jane Dickson, Stefan Eins, Peter Fend, Coleen Fitzgibbon, Bobby G, Mike Glier, Becky Howland, Lisa Kahane, Christof Kohlhofer, Justen Ladda, Joe Lewis, Ann Messner, Richard Miller, Tom Otterness, Cara Perlman, Judy Rifka, Walter Robinson, Christy Rupp, Teri Slotkin, Kiki Smith and Seton Smith (most of whom have pieces in the related exhibits).

The fourth participant, Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space (The Real Estate Show, What Next: 2014), focuses on the SPURA development (i.e. Essex Crossing) and the drastic changes it will bring to the neighborhood. The gallery is also featuring a “Free Speech” hour every day from 5pm – 6pm, soap box included. A centerpiece of the exhibit is a working sweet potato food cart, evoking a common sight in the neighborhood in the 1940s.

The images in the slideshow below depict each gallery in order of their opening days.

The Real Estate Show, Was Then: 1980 at James Fuentes, 55 Delancey Street, April 4 – 27
RESx: The Real Estate Show Extended at ABC NoRio, 156 Rivington Street, April 9 – May 8
No City An Island at The Lodge Gallery, 131 Chrystie Street, April 10 – May 11
The Real Estate Show, What Next: 2014 at Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space, April 19 – May 18

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