Arriving, amazingly, with almost zero hype, a four-story contemporary art museum opened over the weekend on one of the busiest corners of the East Village, news that feels more 1978 than 2018, when even global chains aren’t willing to pay the rent around these parts. Admission is completely free, it’s open to everyone, and there’s even a lovely little sculpture garden on the roof!
The glorious kicker: the place took over a bank.
The audacious move is courtesy of Swiss Institute, a non-profit organization with a list of deep-pockted donors on display near the entrance. Public funds (your tax dollars doing some good!) also contribute to SI’s cause of “promoting forward-thinking and experimental art making.” The non-profit Printed Matter manage the bookstore up front, but otherwise there is no commerce involved here. It’s not called a gallery, because you can’t buy the art.
The inaugural exhibition is “Readymades Belong To Everyone,” a group show curated by Fred Fischli and Niels Olsen with works, including 17 new commissions, from more than 50 artists and collectives spread out over the entire space. There are some well-known names here, like Christo, Rem Koolhaas, and Lutz Bacher, but most are emerging or mid-career artists. Either way, all of the pieces use found, or at least already fully-formed, objects in some way. Expect to see the Yoda floating in the basement popping up in your Instagram feed soon.
Swiss Institute is located at 38 St Marks Place on the corner of Second Avenue, and is open Wednesday to Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., and on Sunday from noon until 6 p.m. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.