A Genre-Defying Brooklyn Gallery Opens With an Exhibition of Masks Spanning 200 Years

"B" Dry Goods was launched by a former Boston gallerist who deals in rare-books and music-ephemera.

Gabe Boyer dons a mask on view in "The Masks We Wear" at his new gallery "B" Dry Goods. All photos courtesy of the gallery.

Where can you pick up an ancient Egyptian Coptic textile on a whim? At “B” Dry Goods, a genre-defying art and design gallery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where rare-books and music-ephemera dealer—and former Boston gallerist—Gabe Boyers will open his inaugural exhibition, “The Masks We Wear,” featuring fifty artists and designers across 200 years.

Boyers grew up in Saratoga, N.Y., but tomorrow’s opening marks his family’s fourth generation conducting business in Crown Heights. His great-grandfather emigrated from Ukraine to New York City in 1910 and, in 1920, opened his own department store on St. Johns Place and Troy Avenue. Boyers’s grandfather and father both worked there before the store closed in 1969. Now Boyers’s gallery bears its name.

Ancient Egyptian Coptic textile fragment featured in “The Masks We All Wear.” Courtesy of “B” Dry Goods.

Boyers told Artnet News his fine-art inclinations evolved from the values instilled in him by his parents—both editors, writers, and professors at Skidmore College. Schubertiade Music & Arts, the company Boyers launched in 2006, sold high value music and art ephemera with aesthetic attitude but didn’t exhibit it. Boyers opened Kabinett art gallery in Boston’s South End in 2017, dealing in contemporary art for his first real time, showing mostly mid-career artists he admired.

Upon moving to New York in January 2020, Boyers expected to take a few months’ break before opening Kabinett’s second coming in the new city. He stopped just short of signing the lease on a new gallery that first week of March 2020. “Having to take a beat really led me to something that I’m much happier with,” Boyers said, “a more interesting project than it might have been had we just gone ahead with the original safer plan.”

After considering spaces in TriBeCa, the East Village, and Bushwick, Boyers bought the first floor retail space of a condo building in Crown Heights last spring and completed a commercial build-out with finishes like a bathroom mural by New York-based Jeff Quinn—who showed with Kabinett in 2019—designed so future artists can add to it.

Cases of rare books on permanent display at “B” Dry Goods. Courtesy of “B” Dry Goods.

Contemporary art on the walls of “B” Dry Goods will live alongside permanent fixtures like wood benches from the collection of actor Dennis Hopper, a bright blue In Every Dream Home acrylic desk designed by Paul Kelley in 2010, and a library of rare books for perusal and purchase. Works in the first exhibition span that ancient Egyptian Coptic textile, a mask used in Planet of the Apes (1968), and a Käthe Kollwitz etching.

The show has a pandemic angle, but Boyers sees it more concentrated in creativity. “The goal of the show is to elucidate the ongoing conversation between artists across time,” Boyers said. “The context is surely different, some of the overarching motivations were different, but they were artists the same, and the conversation is the same.” All the show’s artists are exploring what it takes to build a face, and what it means to cover it up.

A World War I respirator mask featured in “The Masks We All Wear.” Courtesy of “B” Dry Goods.

Boyers keeps curatorial concepts in his back pocket and an eye on his extensive network for any relic “that has something special, something humorous, something maybe a little naughty.” He doesn’t even deal in expensive books if they’re common. “People who are interested in things of quality, substance, and beauty are quite willing to travel with me across genres, across these normally siloed areas of collecting,” he added.

“B” Dry Goods also boasts a built out bar. Tomorrow’s is just for toasting, but this winter they’ll announce music and poetry performances. Many exhibitions will be blowouts of a scale similar to this first, but not all. One show slated for March 2023 centers on new paintings by Jeannie Weissglass. “We’ll present the body of work of hers that involves floating furniture elements,” he said, juxtaposed with Andy Warhol’s table, a screen that belonged to Igor Stravinsky, a sconce Jean Cocteau made for him, and more.

Boyers’s next show will explore fine art and fashion, featuring clothes with a life of their own, even a rare French clothing case for Marie Antoinette’s travels. “It’s one of only a few that are known to still exist,” he said, “putting the crown in Crown Heights.”

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