McNally Jackson, one of New York City’s marquee independent bookstores, is venturing into art with a new shop devoted to prints, editions, posters, and art and artists’ books. Called Picture Room, the store opened two weeks ago on Mulberry Street in the Manhattan neighborhood of Nolita, right next door to the bookseller’s stationery outlet, Goods for the Study.
Picture Room is decidedly a store rather than a gallery; think Gagosian Shop over plain old Gagosian. “We do not represent any artists, and we do not transform the space for an individual’s exhibition or group show,” Sandeep Kaur Salter, a partner and director of the store, told Hyperallergic over email. “The space always remains a place with many artworks all for sale and available to walk out of the door with. Whatever is on view is available.”
As for what that consists of: mainly prints and multiples, work that lends itself to a casual retail browsing experience rather than the formal focus of a white-walled gallery. “What’s really at the heart of the matter is that most of the works here do not ask for an exhibition,” Salter explained. “Some of the works were not made as part of a greater body of work — they are individual pieces made to be, and capable of, standing alone. [A] good example is the Dexter Sinister W-A-S-T-E prints (a portfolio of twelve editioned prints that were made over the years after iconic images from other projects). They said that they were kind of waiting for this shop (though they didn’t know it) because there had not previously been an appropriate outlet for these works. Picture Room gives works like these the context to thrive and be viewed.”
There’s an element of the antique shop or rare book seller, too, as Salter is always scouting for historical material. “There are so many works that sit in the archives of museums and galleries, waiting for collectors to view them. We wanted to gather these works and give them a venue.”
Despite being a store, Picture Room will have some regular programming. The shop will highlight rotating featured artists, which could actually mean an artist, studio, or archive; the current selection is Dan Graham, whose work is on view until August 1. Salter also plans to bring in guest curators to work as guest buyers. “When we bring in other curators, I expect their practice to shift as they work in a retail space, which is ultimately a space in flux, always subject to change,” she said, “as opposed to the reliability of the gallery, which will preserve the placement of things in a space according to the curator’s will.” According to its website, Picture Room will also work with artists to produce “exclusive limited editions.”
Given its focus and these added touches, the shop recalls an IRL incarnation — or perhaps a combination — of the plethora of online art-selling ventures that have popped up in recent years (Artspace meets 20×200?). And, like many of those ventures, Picture Room takes an interest in both accessibility and affordability. “I want our customers to feel comfortable here, to be able to walk in off the street and buy a work of art that they love. Or to just browse our selection of books,” Salter wrote. “The price range is really wide — from 50 cents to $4,000. The selection of work varies greatly in material, rarity, provenance, date of production, and style.”
Online art-selling businesses, even Amazon, haven’t yet broken the impenetrable spell cast by billionaire art collectors flipping works for profit. Might a brick-and-mortar store help convince the general public that collecting is something they can do?
“I hope there is something here for everyone,” Salter said. “There is beautiful work being made at every price point; it’s just a matter of finding it.”
Picture Room is located at 236 Mulberry Street (Nolita, Manhattan) and open daily from noon to 8pm. More information can be found online.