As the New York art world begins one of its busiest months of the year, marked by the Frieze art fair and satellites Pulse, PooL and NADA along with major auctions, three young artists are offering the city a different kind of art market. Located in a newsstand on the northeast corner of Canal and Bowery, Petrella’s Imports sells art with a maximum price of $30. Co-creators Anne Libby, Elise McMahon and Sophie Stone alternate shifts in the kiosk, which has been open Thursday-Sunday from 12-5:30 since Apr. 14. Customers range from art pilgrims to curious passersby. Business, they told A.i.A. during a recent visit, has been quite good.
The stand offers an eclectic mélange of publications and editions and some products resembling typical newsstand stock, all made by some 100 or so international artists. The inventory includes popcorn, candies, bottled water, postcards, zines, independent newspapers, key chains, lighters, cigarettes, umbrellas, lip balm, deodorant and, should you find yourself in need, free sanitary hand wipes. A.i.A. went home with editioned postcards by Portland’s Caley Feeney and Oslo’s Kim Hiorthøy and a booklet from Chicago-based collective Temporary Services.
If you are aware and inclined to ask for it, you may peruse (but not purchase) the Special Collections. You will be handed a library box containing an “archive of pre-Internet self-publishing” compiled by New York artist Peter Wilson. The archive and the newsstand both hark back to an analog age, but neither are premised on nostalgia for the printed word or resistance to digital media: Special Collections has its own website; Petrella’s Imports is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Rather, they call attention to the continued existence of offline sources and outlets for information and images, as well as their strange relationship to online counterparts. Some of the offerings include “printed blogs,” as distinguished from magazines or newspapers, such as a paper copy of Joshua Abelow’s Art Blog Art Blog.
Petrella’s Imports is located on the site of Petrella’s Point, a traditional newsstand operated by Adam Petrella until 2004. The original stand was a wooden construction, bright red with hand-lettered signage, according to the artists. Though the stand has not been in business for some years, Libby, McMahon and Stone “are working with” the stand’s leaseholder, Libby told A.i.A.
Over the years, many artist-run shops have emerged as alternative art-market models. Claes Oldenburg’s Store, operated in the East Village from 1961-64, is the subject of a major exhibition currently on view at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. From 1973-77, Stefan Eins opened his studio at 3 Mercer Street as a store and exhibition space for his work and others’. More recently, Family Business Gallery in Chelsea housed MEGABODEGA, a zine-and-art-book-centered store and event series. Such spaces have emerged in other cities, too: Luca Antonucci and Carissa Potter ran an alternative newsstand called Edicola through their San-Francisco-based publishing company Colpa Press in 2012; Jennifer Mills opened the Dollar Store in Chicago last December; Jonathan Horowitz plans to create a Free Store at this year’s Art Basel, where no money changes hands.
Like these analogous projects, Petrella’s Imports is a temporary undertaking. It’s open through the end of June.