Athena LaTocha's New Works, Installation View at Sensei Gallery. (Photo: Allyson Shiffman)

Athena LaTocha’s new works at Gallery Sensei. (Photo: Allyson Shiffman)

For every couple of dozen unpleasant openings and closings in LES, there’s one that manages to restore our faith in the neighborhood, if only for a glorious moment. Gallery Sensei, a 2,000 sq. ft. gallery and arts event space at 278 Grand Street, is one such opening. The permanent outpost of the art project of the same name, Sensei promises exhibitions, art events and even booze! Yes, there’s a charming bar in the back of the space ideal for discussing the works on view or how much your rent has gone up this month.

Founder Joseph Latimore is no stranger to the art world or throwing a good party (or delightful combinations of the two). He managed the infamous Passerby, an oasis for the less pretentious of the Chelsea art crowd, and later opened Panda, a Lower East Side gallery by day and bar by night. “Moving into the new space is a major step up,” Latimore says. “In addition to having a gallery program, it’s also a space for artists and people who love art to gather.”

The bar area at Gallery Sensei. (Photo: Allyson Shiffman)

The bar area at Gallery Sensei. (Photo: Allyson Shiffman)

Launched in 2006, Sensei was initially a project aimed at exhibiting the works of 50 artists who had not yet formally shown their work in New York (the last of which was Harry Druzd, a former Max Fish bartender we recently caught up with). With the new space, Latimore has expanded his roster to include veteran and senior artists alongside up-and-comers. “We have two artists who both happen to be 84 years old,” he says. “But some of the artists I started with back in 2006, who at the time had never had a show — seeing them develop has been great.”


The nondescript entrance to Gallery Sensei (Photo: Allyson Shiffman)

Latimore is refreshingly optimistic about the future of the neighborhood he still calls home, even after the closing of Max Fish, which many viewed as being the last nail in the coffin of LES nightlife. “The Fish is the original art bar, but the Lower East Side still has potential to really be hot,” he says. “I haven’t quite found my spot since the Fish closed, but I think that Sensei is going to make a nice contribution to New York nightlife, especially for the creative types.”

Starting this March, Latimore plans to have four to five nights of programming per week, including performances, screenings and artist talks as well as “our usual parties just for the hell of it.” We aren’t ones to put all our PBRs in one basket, but Sensei may be precisely what we’ve been waiting for.

Sensei’s latest exhibition with works by Dan Sabau opens third Friday from 6 p.m. till “whenever it ends.”