Has Williamsburg’s supercharged gentrification cycle come full circle and spurred a new influx of galleries? How else to explain the opening of two new art galleries in the neighborhood in the last two months? On Richardson Street, Ernest Newman Contemporary launched its inaugural show on Saturday, and on North 12th Street — in the space occupied by first-generation Williamsburg gallery Art Moving Projects — Moiety quietly opened its first official exhibition last month. Wet!, a show of playful paintings, painted mirrors, and carpets by the Dutch artist Jordy Van Den Nieuwendijk, makes judicious use of the gallery’s white cube space with works on the floor, tucked into corners, and hung high on the walls. Their rounded shapes, colorful palette, and abstract lines look like what might have happened if Henri Matisse had started drawing comic books late in life.
Hyperallergic spoke to Joshua Schwartz, the co-founder (with Kyle Smith) of Moiety, about the logistics of opening a gallery in Williamsburg in 2014, what their plan is for the space, and how the locals — newcomers and old-timers alike — have responded.
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Benjamin Sutton: When did the gallery open, and what made you decide to open it in North Williamsburg?
Joshua Schwartz: We originally had a studio in the back of the building — the storefront opened up in January and we were lucky enough to get it. The space was pretty raw and had not been used as a gallery in a number of years. We took a few months to renovate then did a soft launch which consisted of Corners Are For Kissing In (where we altered the gallery to look like a high school cafeteria) and Emotions, a two person show featuring paintings by Michael Hilsman and ceramic works by Jesse Wine. Jordy Van Den Nieuwendijk’s Wet! is our first official show.
BS: Who guides the programming at the gallery?
JS: Myself and friend and business partner Kyle Smith decide on programming. We have been working together for six years.
BS: Would you say there’s an overarching aesthetic or tone to the type of work shown at Moiety?
JS: Moiety is still a bit mysterious. Our interests are sprawling and the things that get us excited really do vary. My guess is a tone will naturally form after X amount of programming, but for now we are open to a wide range of artists and practices.
BS: What does the name of the gallery mean?
JS: Moiety is a word that is rarely used, but so strong and good-looking … an underdog in our minds. By definition it means half of a whole. It references the relationship between Moiety and our first collaborative endeavor, Lanningsmith, a design and build company that we still operate. Each are equal parts that form a whole.
BS: Have you had any interaction with the folks who ran Art Moving Projects, the gallery that used to be in your space?
JS: Aron [Namenwirth, former co-director of Art Moving Projects] is a rock star. In fact I saw him this morning and asked what I should say on his behalf: “Fuck the art world. I’m making music.” He said I should quote him …
BS: Who would you say is your core audience? Is it mostly people who live in Williamsburg, people visiting the neighborhood, people coming from other parts of the city specifically to see your shows, or a mix?
JS: All of the above. It’s great when I find out that someone travelled here specifically because they heard about Moiety or Jordy’s show. The day-to-day foot traffic has spawned some interesting conversation as well.
BS: In many people’s minds, Williamsburg is no longer a neighborhood for galleries; what has the response from older galleries and businesses in the neighborhood since you’ve opened?
JS: Extremely positive. It feels great to have people come in who have owned a business in the neighborhood for 15–20 years and compliment us on bringing art back. Generally speaking — people who have lived here for longer than five years are happy to see something other than a coffee shop, bar, or boutique.