Yesterday, Anthology Film Archives announced that, for the first time in their 46-year history, big changes are coming to the institution in the form of an expansion to their East Village operations that will include a library and café.
Actually, co-founder Jonas Mekas told us that it’s not so much an expansion as completing the original design. “I bought the building in the city auction in ’79, but it was just a shell,” he said. “We could never finish the library and cafe, we did not have enough money.”
The Heaven and Earth Library & Cafe is a two-part expansion that Mekas assured us will be “very up-to-date.” The library will be added on as an additional floor on top of the existing building, and the cafe will be housed in a new wing at the ground level.
But, why do this project now? “The time came that we cannot postpone anymore,” Mekas said. “Because we have so much material, we have so much paper, books, periodicals, documentation on cinema that we have to build a library and make those materials available to researchers, scholars, students.” The massive collection will be solely devoted to film and cover “the past and present of cinema,” Mekas explained, and when its completed will be “the largest of its kind in the United States.”
The announcement sent out yesterday revealed that the library will include rare books, documents, and art made by “iconic filmmakers such as Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, Joseph Cornell, Harry Smith, Stan Brakhage and many others.” Mekas pointed to some of the really special acquisitions including the original shooting script from the Orson Welles’s classic Citizen Kane.
The new cafe, on the other hand, is not just a cool addition but a convenient little cash cow to keep Anthology running and help ensure financial stability in the long-term. Rents are going up in the East Village to be sure, but the theater has to contend with the fact that running any sort of business in New York City is getting more expensive. “The cafe is for our survival,” Mekas said. “Film Forum and Angelika, they lose money on their screenings but they balance it with their cafes.”
Of course, the project is still very much in the works, and the necessary funds have yet to be secured. That being said, we kind of doubt that Anthology is going to have any trouble whatsoever raking in the cash at this year’s spring gala. That’s because the fundraising affair won’t be just any diamond-encrusted moth-ball/slow-dance affair.
Rock star art auctioneer Simon de Pury, and head of “independent curatorial and art advisory” service de Pury de Pury (and formerly of Phillips de Pury & Company, which New York dubbed the “Red Bull” to “Christie’s and Sotheby’s, the Coke and Pepsi of the business”) will preside over a ridiculously name-drop-worthy art auction of Zoolander-esque proportions. The announcement names a slew of noteworthy artists like Matthew Barney (creator of such scat-tastic works as River of Fundament), Chuck Close (that guy who does the amazing stuff with the thousands of little pictures), and legendary photographers like Robert Frank (The Americans– did you have to ask?). There’s also Cindy Sherman, Jenny Holzer, Alex Katz, Elizabeth Peyton, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Sarah Sze, Christopher Woo, Joe Bradley, and Phong Bui. And there are more on the way.
So if you’re planning to even look in the direction of the gala, happening March 2 in Capitale, New York (that means you’re going to have to unfurl your prayer mat facing North), start practicing your pucker face and hundo-flicks right now.
Don’t worry though, even if you’re not rolling in the dough (or maybe you just can’t seem to find your couture gown, but you know it’s lying around somewhere…) you’re still invited to the cafe and library once they’re completed. Both “will be open to the neighborhood,” Mekas assured us. “We want to make it very, very special– it should be cheap and good and special and unique.”
We don’t have any deets on the food and drink situation just yet, but Mekas was willing to say that Giorgio DeLuca (of Dean & DeLuca) is advising on the matter.
Anthology Film Archives was founded in 1970 by Jonas Mekas and Jerome Hill as a place to screen the Essential Cinema Repertory, a massive, life’s-work-length syllabus tackling the history of cinema. The repertory was outlined by Anthology’s first film selection committee between 1970 to 1975, so it remains unfinished but nevertheless gargantuan. At 110 programs featuring 300 multinational, multicultural, generation-spanning titles, no one’s complaining that the repertory falls short. Even though it’s officially incomplete, the original goal of a “continuously screening” program has more or less been met (this month, you can catch films by Roberto Rossellini and Leni Riefenstahl).
As Anthology regulars are well aware, the theater actually surpassed initial expectations and has since grown into the community staple and indie/art-film cinematic power house that it is today. Most remarkable, is the sheer diversity of film and filmmakers that Anthology welcomes into its fold: from first-time directors and locally-made films (like the one and only Vamp Bikers Tres, starring Michael Alig as “King of the Club Kid zombies”), to stuff like Broken Senses (happening January 17 through March 28)– a program of short films that invoke “synesthetic sensations (hear colors, feel sounds, taste shapes) while mobilizing emotions and memories.”
The theater has become a supportive linchpin and first-access point for so many different kinds of filmmakers, not just established independent directors, and the new library will reflect this commitment to breadth and diversity too. “This is a library for cinema– it’s not only for the independent and new [films], we are including a lot of classics,” Mekas explained. “And now many of the filmmakers that are working in the commercial cinema, we premiered, we opened their first films at Anthology.”
So it’s a wonder that Anthology has only received a great deal of financial help from the fine art community, and has been largely snubbed by the film community (Big Hollywood, especially, has basically stiffed them on this project). “There are exceptions– Jim Jarmusch, John Waters have been very helpful,” Mekas said. “But they don’t have as much reach as Harvey Weinstein. Harvey Weinstein should build the library himself.”
In case that you’re a super fan who’s willing to splurge $250 (at the very minimum) for the spring gala, this is where you get your tickets.
Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that Simon de Pury is currently working with Phillips de Pury & Company, a company which the auctioneer left in 2012. He is now with de Pury de Pury.