When Vito Schnabel announced that he was hosting an art show in the iconic Germania Bank building at 190 Bowery, his invite made clear that it was a momentous occasion: “This is the first time this 1899 landmark building will be open to the public since the bank closed in 1966 and it became a private residence.” Needless to say, all hell broke loose.
When we showed up at the corner of Bowery and Spring yesterday afternoon, dozens of downtown types who were under the impression that the event was open to the public were jockeying for access, eager to catch a glimpse of the 72-room manse that photographer Jay Maisel bought for $102,000 in 1966 and recently sold for $55 million. Almost all of them were turned away by gatekeepers who instructed them to make an appointment on Schnabel’s website (the exhibit will be up through May 29). Some at least got a slice of Williamsburg Pizza, thanks to a deliveryman who made the scene.
A door minder we spoke to estimated that she turned away 4,000 people in all. Her colleague told the crowd that the event had never been open to the public to begin with, and blamed Gothamist for broadcasting a private invitation.
Needless to say, Gothamist wasn’t granted entry, but Bedford + Bowery managed to get in (it helps to have Bowery in your name). Surprisingly, there weren’t all that many people inside. We spotted Harmony Korine chatting with Julian Schnabel (they were two of the seven artists featured), plus a few dozen others milling around in the exhibit’s three rooms. Anyone hoping to check out the basement vault or the fourth-floor room that Roy Lichtenstein once rented would’ve been disappointed. Indeed Beaux Arts buffs would’ve been better off staying home and clicking through New York magazine’s slideshow from when Maisel lived in the building, or checking out the interior footage Animal recently obtained after conning its way into the building.
Oh, but there was art. Click through our slideshow to see what was on display, as well as some interior details. Earlier this month, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a restoration of the building ahead of a retail/office conversion. It turns out the granite exterior — once a canvas for Keith Haring — may not be wiped clean of graffiti, per New York YIMBY.