Where push comes to shove
Anne Walker -- Interior Design, 9/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
At any gallery, art naturally takes center stage. It's not often, though, that the stage set can be altered between acts. Which is precisely what distinguishes the Kashya Hildebrand Gallery's de rigueur white-box look from that at neighboring Chelsea establishments.
The gallery is an outpost of sibling art dealers Kashya Hildebrand and Daneyal Mahmood's gallery in Geneva, and both locations were designed by Blue Architects principal Thomas Hildebrand, Kashya Hildebrand's brother-in-law. For New York, the duo asked for a showplace that not only looked sleek but would also be flexible enough to present both solo shows and group exhibitions.
Presented with 4,000 square feet on the ground floor of a converted warehouse, Thomas Hildebrand enjoyed the luxury of 15-foot ceilings and a 43-foot-wide expanse of street-front windows, but he had to contend with a square footprint awkwardly broken up by 12 cast-iron columns. The dealers also asked him to double the display surface offered by the gallery's perimeter walls. His solution? Around the most obtrusive of the columns, at the center of the space, he built four 32-inch-thick hollow plasterboard display walls framed with prefabricated aluminum and set on steel castors—"skateboard" walls, as the architect describes them. Two of these 10-foot-high walls slide laterally along two columns; the other two walls slide and rotate about a single column.
A mere push makes a number of configurations possible: an enclosed room in the center of the gallery, an interconnected space, or a labyrinth with dead ends. "The idea of movement communicates itself over time. On each return visit, the space is different," explains Thomas Hildebrand. Though it's always bright and airy.
The choices for finishes and fixtures are pure Chelsea: white paint for the walls, white resin on sanded concrete for the floor, and track lighting in discreet white powder-coated aluminum. These standards got that way, of course, because they do provide a neutral backdrop for exhibits. In the case of the Kashya Hildebrand Gallery—intended as a conduit to bring international contemporary art to the U.S.—pieces on display might range from Takeo Adachi's contemplative pencil drawings on paper to Tianbing Li's startling portrait of Chairman Mao, in human hair on peach-painted linen.
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