Angry Resident Threatens Shin Gallery Over Massage Parlor Installation

"Salon de Mass-age" at Shin Gallery. Photo: Jenny Ward.

What happens when you disguise your art gallery as a cheap Chinese massage parlor? If the recent reaction to a new Shin Gallery art installation is any indication, the neighbors get really bent out of shape. New York gallery owner Hong Gyu Shin claims he recently received an email from someone who signed their name “Jenny Ward” and claims to live down the street. “Ward” announced in the email an intention to sue over the exhibition.

The e-mail, which was made available to artnet News, states:

I live up the street. I paid $1.3 million for my condo at 50 Orchard Street. I have contacted the Dept. of Consumer Affairs, and other city agencies to come investigate and slap a fine on you and your trashy installation and front of a massage parlor. There are prices listed on the door. This is no art installation. We’ve also hired a lawyer to sue Shin Gallery for damages to the value of our condominiums. See you in a Court of Law.

While Shin isn’t offering any massage services, you’d be forgiven for being fooled. He’s transformed the gallery’s 66 Orchard Street project space into an art installation that appears to be a “Salon de Mass-age.” The door shows a list of massage services and prices. Bad lighting, cheap curtains, house plants, and a few spare rolls of toilet paper add to the illusion.

"Salon de Mass-age" at Shin Gallery. Photo: Danielle Faulkner and Paul Latislaw.

“Salon de Mass-age” at Shin Gallery.
Photo: Danielle Faulkner and Paul Latislaw.

“It’s a fun and sensational way to see artworks,” Shin told artnet News of the unorthodox set up, which is inspired by the ubiquitous dirt-cheap Chinatown massage joint. Inside, visitors are treated not to foot rubs but to an exhibition of works by Rudolf Schwarzkogler and Nobuyoshi Araki, on view through November 1.

“From outside, it looks like a massage parlor that probably gives you a happy ending,” Shin admitted, but that’s part of the fun. He thinks it’s an appropriate setting for the provocative, sexual photography on view.

Ward is likely not the first person to take issue with the display. Shin has heard rumors that nearby stores have reached out to the building and the landlord. “But I haven’t seen those letters,” he said.

"Salon de Mass-age" at Shin Gallery. Photo: Danielle Faulkner and Paul Latislaw.

“Salon de Mass-age” at Shin Gallery.
Photo: Danielle Faulkner and Paul Latislaw.


All in all, he’s not getting too worked up about any potential legal action, at least until there’s more official action. “I mean, it’s art,” Shin noted. “At the moment I’m focusing on my next show.”

artnet News reached out to Ward via e-mail, but Ward has not responded for comment.

For now, Shin is getting a kick out of the walk-ins hoping to get a good deal on a massage (Salon de Mass-age’s listed prices, however fake, are still $2 cheaper than nearby competitors).

“There was some guy, I think in his mid-40s—my assistant had to tell him ‘Oh, this is actually a gallery, and we’re having an exhibition,'” Shin recounted. “He was really disappointed.”

“Salon de Mass-age” is on view at Shin Gallery, 66 Orchard Street, New York, September 9–November 1, 2015.

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