The Sky's the Limit
Gluckman Mayner Architects creates a dramatic Chelsea gallery for art-world avatar Mary Boone.
Jeff Hill -- Interior Design, 8/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
Having recently established a Chelsea branch of her high-profile gallery, Mary Boone signals yet another stage in her evolution as a dealer. After working for several years during the '70s at the famous Bykert Gallery, Boone opened her first space on Soho's West Broadway in 1979, moving into the same building that housed Leo Castelli and Ileana Sonnabend's legendary galleries. (She later moved across the street.) In many respects, she became an exemplar of the '80s art boom, with a roster of stars that then included Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Eric Fischl, and Ross Bleckner. As the decade progressed, Boone's once notoriously all-male stable expanded to include feminist-inclined artists such as Barbara Kruger and Sherrie Levine. In the radically different economic and aesthetic climate of the early '90s, however, interest in her gallery began to flag, and Boone opted for new digs on 57th Street, in a traditionally rather staid neighborhood of the New York art world. But Chelsea now dominates the scene, so it stands to reason that the dealer would want a strong presence there as well. And having once again re-invented herself by taking on a fresh crop of trendy young artists like Tom Sachs, Damian Loeb, and Inka Essenhigh, perhaps she felt a more up-to-the-minute locale was in order.
Richard Gluckman's association with Boone dates back to her days on West Broadway; he subsequently designed her gallery at 745 Fifth Avenue. The layout, materials, and details of the Chelsea gallery derive from the design of her uptown space. The two sites could not be more different: the uptown gallery is in a high-rise, the downtown in a former warehouse. Gluckman Mayner Architects nevertheless managed to create a sense of filial connection between them, maintaining as many of the design particulars that suggest "Mary Boone" as possible while making whatever changes were necessary to accommodate the existing conditions of the warehouse. Comparing the reception areas of the two galleries, one is struck by the similarities of both design and furnishings: both feature a striking, "minimalist" array of black binders (containing information on the artists Boone represents), and the furnishings are virtually identical. But while Gluckman had to work around the limitations of relatively low ceilings at the Fifth Avenue location, here in both the reception area and the ancillary semi-private office/showroom, he established 13-ft.-high ceilings that purposely recall the dimensions of the uptown space. The dramatic contrast occurs in between these two rooms, in the main gallery, which in typical Chelsea fashion features a soaring ceiling with skylight. The architect created a powerful juxtaposition between the refinement of detail typically associated with his work and the worn, rough quality of the original wood trusses and wood plank ceiling, which have been left exposed, arcing over the space. The differing heights of the various display walls endow the overall volume with a quality of apparent plasticity and a sense of dynamism. Floors throughout are steel-troweled concrete slab, which is also reminiscent of the floor treatment uptown. And the façade's storefront of translucent sandblasted glass even harks back to Gluckman's design of Boone's old West Broadway gallery.
The galleries at Boone's Fifth Avenue venue are windowless. In Chelsea, however, all three rooms receive natural light: via the translucent storefront windows in the reception area and through a small central skylight in the rear office/showroom. In the main exhibition space, a 12-ft.-wide translucent plastic skylight traverses the entire length of the 24-ft.-high display wall; spotlights provide additional illumination.
Daniel Gallagher and Michael Hamilton served as project managers. Bill Truitt completed the design team.