An Artist-Run Gallery Emerges in The Rockaways

Topless Gallery
Topless Gallery

It’s not just MoMA PS1 that’s reaching out to the Rockaways in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. According to DNAinfo, two young artists recently opened a temporary art gallery in an empty storefront on Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The spunkily-named gallery, Topless, is the brainchild of Brent Birnbaum and Jenni Crain, who felt that an art space would be the perfect use for one of the many abandoned buildings that littered the area after the devastating 2012 storm.

The gallery’s name is meant to be “playful, provocative and obviously catchy,” says Crain. It also has a dual meaning, as the recovery, growth, and expansion of the Rockaways has “no roof,” according to the artists. As the pair worked with the landlord to clean up and restore the former eye doctor’s office, down went the decades-old drop ceiling, making way for large, exposed windows. They kept some of the kitschy old wallpaper up and have displayed art on the exposed brick.

Their first show, which opened on June 14 and will stay up until July 3, features three up-and-coming artists: Caroline Wells Chandler, Andy Cross, and Cindy Ji Hye Kim. They plan to host three more shows over the course of the summer, before shutting down and reopening next year somewhere else along the peninsula. Like many young gallerists, the pair has zero interest in pre-established art neighborhoods like Chelsea or even Bushwick. Birnbaum told DNAinfo, “It’s more about the community down here and actually doing the opposite of those neighborhoods.” He added, “We wanted to show the work we’re most excited about.”


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