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Lobby art sucks, but these NYC buildings are redrawing the rules

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Let’s be real, lobby art, even in the best buildings, is a snooze.

Now, some avant-garde buildings are trusting their public spaces to gallerists, who put on rotating exhibitions and show edgy contemporary pieces.

And — dare we say it? — a lot of this art is actually worth looking at.

Examples of the new art factor in residential buildings include the Long Island City condo GALERIE, which has a street-level rotating art exhibit called ArtBox that gives emerging artists a spot in the limelight.

The Dime, a new rental building in South Williamsburg, features murals by Swoon, one of the best-known female street artists in the country, and the contemporary American sculptor Tom Fruin.

The building will soon host rotating art shows throughout the building, according to developer Sam Charney.

“Residential building art has transformed in recent years,” said Kipton Cronkite, an art advisor and curator who helps buildings with the art in their public spaces. “As collectors seek more eye-catching and contemporary art, savvy developers have engaged art advisors and galleries to create bespoke collections that they switch up.”

Alice Aycock's "Twister."
“Twister,” by Alice Aycock, mixes things up in Time Equities’ glass-walled exhibition space at their condo 50 West in Fidi.
Collection of Francis J. Greenburger, New York.

Developer Time Equities, for example, operates an Art-in-Buildings (AiB) program that features pieces from Chairman and CEO Francis J. Greenburger’s personal collection in its properties, including two residential buildings in New York. The avid collector has a trove of 1,500 or so works from renowned names like the American multimedia artist Sol LeWitt, the British sculptor Jon Isherwood and the American abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler.

“The idea is to elevate the art you see in buildings to the caliber you would see in a gallery or museum,” said AiB director and curator Tessa Ferreyros. “We’re going for engaging, not bland.”

Lobby art by the artist Tom Fruin..
A colorful mural, titled “Trash Piece” by the artist Tom Fruin pops at the Dime in South Williamsburg.
Alexander Severin

The company’s downtown tower, 50 West, has a glass-walled exhibition space in the lobby, which changes three to four times a year. There are currently more than 30 pieces on show including a 10-foot-tall twister sculpture of white powder-coated aluminum by Alice Aycock, whose works are in the Museum of Modern Art and at the Whitney.

Residents can also view oil-on-canvas paintings depicting construction scenes by the Israel-born Noa Charuvi and photography, sculptures and more by both emerging and established artists.

Art consultant Emily Santangelo runs a similar program for Toll Brothers City Living, the residential behemoth’s urban development arm. She works full-time to hunt down buzzworthy pieces to display in lobbies and public spaces of their NYC holdings.

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“The mandate I’m given is to have people feel like they’re entering the house of a great art collector or a hot new exhibition,” she said.

Examples of art on display right now include a black hand-applied paintstick and silica on handmade paper by Richard Serra at 55 W. 17th Street and an Emilio Perez painting in muted pinks, purples and blues in the lobby of 91 Leonard St.

Delano Dunn x 196 Orchard
this piece was curated by Lesley Heller. Currently, the art curation at the building is handled by Valerie McKenzie of McKenzie Gallery
In June, 196 Orchard displayed a challenging work by Delano Dunn.
Courtesy of Emily Santangelo

On the Lower East Side, 196 Orchard partners with local galleries to bring important pieces to the building — and they aren’t shy about challenging their residents.
In June, they partnered with Lesley Heller Gallery to bring a work by artist Delano Dunn to the building. The piece titled “Yesterday’s Chicken, Today’s Gravy” used historic images from Harper’s Bazaar magazines to “spark meaningful conversations during these times of social injustice.”

Most residents, but not everyone, in the building were pleased, a source connected to the building told The Post.

The idea is to elevate the art you see in buildings to the caliber you would see in a gallery or museum

AiB director and curator Tessa Ferreyros

The building is currently partnered with neighboring gallery Mackenzie Fine Art, where owner Valerie McKenzie picks pieces for four lobby exhibits a year. These shows highlight works by American artists who live in New York, including Chris Gallagher, a contemporary painter who is known for his colorful canvases with stripe patterns, and Rod de Oude, who creates oil-on-panel works depicting small squares.

Residents have the opportunity to buy what they like: The building’s concierge service, First Service Residential, sends out emails with details about the works as well as the purchase price.

“This is our way to be part of the conversation,” said Jordan Brill, a partner at the building’s developer Magnum.

Of course, while there is some risk of alienating the most persnickety buyers, developers still hope that boosting their building’s art chops will bolster their bottom line.

“No one is going to buy an apartment because they love the art in the lobby, but it doesn’t hurt either,” said Tania Isacoff Friedland, a broker at Warburg Realty. “You’re not looking at the typical boring art you expect to see, which makes for a positive experience right when you walk in the doors.”

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