Galleries and artist studios were very much the spirit of New York’s SoHo neighborhood for the better part of a half a century, until the major chain stores took over and eclipsed the thriving creative vibe. Rising art consultant and interior designer Alex Bass hopes to play a part in reversing that trend with her new Salon 21 hub at 52 Greene Street.
Bass is the founder and chief executive officer of the art advisory and interior design studio for both commercial and residential clients. Her Salon 21 will open its doors to the public Sept. 7 in a landmarked SoHo loft. The new hub, Bass said, will act as a modern-day incarnation of Gertrude Stein’s legendary Parisian apartment, hosting rotating art exhibitions and, among other things, provide a space for art and design lovers to discover emerging talent, exchange ideas and forge ties, all while drinking, dining and socializing.
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“We want to bring back art — not the super Instagram-centric pop art galleries you see in the area now — back to SoHo. And not just art, but dynamic conversation,” Bass said in an interview, explaining that guests can expect a revolving door of artist panels, workshops, elegant dinners and cocktail parties. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 27-year-old Bass, a self-proclaimed maximalist, was hired to design another SoHo hot spot, vintage temple Treasures of NYC, juxtaposing vintage goods with contemporary items from brands such as Seletti and Toiletpaper.
Part of the motivation for the new space is reviving the artistic spirit that permeated the neighborhood from the ’50s to the late ’80s. After the ’50s, artists famously squatted illegally in lofts they created in SoHo’s abandoned factories and warehouses and thus the area’s reputation as a revolutionary artistic neighborhood was born. The history of artists living and working in the area was further underscored by pioneering contemporary art dealer Leo Castelli, who opened two locations in SoHo, one of which was on Greene Street until 1988, she explained. Paula Cooper opened the first art gallery in SoHo in 1968 with an exhibition to benefit the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.
“I personally have not felt a social community around ‘design’ per se. I would love for Salon 21 to be a space for industry creatives to share ideas and for me to expand my clientele and showcase what I can do design-wise,” she said.
The space’s design was inspired by Stein’s Parisian apartment and aesthetic details like trying to achieve leak stains on the walls, like the writer and art patron had in her home. Bass also punctuated the space with pieces purchased from 1stDibs, and others she had revamped.
“The Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles of that era are also some of my favorite design movements. When sourcing for the space, I tried to find both vintage and new pieces that felt authentic to that time,” the aesthete added.
On opening night, Salon 21 will cut the ribbon on an exhibit that unites a group of artists working in a variety of mediums ranging from oil paint to ceramics. Ceramicist Alison Owen, painters Anna Choutova and Emiko Venlet, and artists Beau Gabriel, Carly Beck and Colette Layette will be among them. A roster of exhibits has been published on the site through February.
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