Makeshift Chinatown Button Shop Gallery Still Exists

Looking out from the He Zhen Snap Button Co.
Looking out from the He Zhen Snap Button Co.

The gallery in the He Zhen Snap Button Co., run by Amy Li on Chinatown’s Mott Street is a unique space for the “underground” art scene. After finishing her masters in arts administration, Li, like many millennials just starting out in the New York art scene, found a disparaging lack of opportunities, sky high rents, and associated costs for conventional art spaces (See “Are Skyrocketing Taxes Running Dealers Out of Chelsea?“). The makeshift gallery, Amy Li Projects, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, is making a case for unconventional spaces and creative thinking when it comes to paving your way in the New York art world shark tank.

Li’s father He Zhen Li, opened his small button alterations shop, at the intersection of Chinatown and Little Italy, 32 years ago on the bustling street filled with garment services, grocers, and temples. In September of last year, Li proposed the idea of hosting a single pop up show in the front space of the shop to her father.

Lo and behold the first show—which exhibited art in public spaces, appropriately titled “Without Consent”— was largely successful. Even better, the gallery’s visitors would often become spillover clients for the button shop, as the show brought in a bevy of fashion clientele.

Li has already exhibited 10 shows in the space, but she tells the Wall Street Journal that she would like to open a museum in Chinatown that would function as both a monument to the community’s enduring culture and a creative space for artists and schools to use.

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