By Gabi Shipfner
A huge hurdle for most visual artists is finding proper exposure for their creations. It’s customary to seek gallery representation, but it can be a daunting and formidable task. It can also be as time consuming to market one’s artwork as it is to create it. With the enormous concentration of artists in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, finding gallery representation is even more challenging, and for those who already have it, solo exhibitions are frequently years apart. That’s the case for Williamsburg artist Mary Westring. She’s represented by the local Figureworks Gallery, but is prolific and produces more work than even her dealer can exhibit.
Enter Mathieu Reboul, owner of Cadaqués, a tapas restaurant and bar at 186 Grand Street in Williamsburg. Mathieu named his restaurant after the beautiful Spanish hometown of Salvador Dali, where his parents were married.
Since Mary’s home studio happens to be directly above his restaurant, a friendship developed between them as a result of their shared interest in the building and the neighborhood.
And the idea of exhibiting artwork on the restaurant walls came from their shared enthusiasm for providing exposure to local artists. As Mathieu said, “They have the art, I have the walls.”
Mary consulted her gallery director, Randall Harris, to see if he had objections to her showing a body of work at a restaurant, especially one so close to his gallery. Randall said, “I appreciated Mary asking me before embarking on this type of exhibition, but I’m a firm believer that artwork should be exhibited in alternative spaces, not just on the pristine walls of a gallery. It’s important to be selective when choosing unique venues, but this union of Mary’s cityscape paintings with Mathieu’s exquisite space is a perfect match.
Plus, it allows a whole new audience to see the artwork in an informal atmosphere, giving it an additional voice.”
Mary is the first to show at Cadaqués, in what is planned to be a series of diverse exhibitions by established local artists. This is the perfect introductory exhibition, as many of Mary’s paintings were inspired by the view out of her bedroom window, looking at laundry hanging from the fire escapes on clotheslines between the buildings. She titled this series, Our Neighbor’s Laundry. In another section at Cadaqués, Mary has hung the series City Scapes, paintings from an earlier residency in Manhattan near Union Square.
The scale of her work and her subject matter are very well suited to Mathieu’s space, which has intimate areas that are enhanced by the warm palettes of her paintings.
For Mathieu to generously open his wall space to artists comes naturally. Between the two world wars, his great grandfather, Edmond Vigouroux, also owned a restaurant, Brasserie le Dome, in the left bank district of Montparnasse in Paris. His restaurant was patronized by local artists who gave him paintings in exchange for meals. Among these “starving artists” were Soutine, Modigliani, Picasso, and Braque. A true supporter of the artist over the artwork, he actually didn’t like their work and sold his collection to the Parisian art dealer Monsieur Pitrides. The sale spoke more to his generosity of spirit than his artistic knowledge. As an aside, this generosity was further evidenced by the fact that he hid fifteen of his Jewish employees and their families in his basement during the Nazi occupation.
Mathieu has many exciting exhibitions planned for the months to come. Mary Westring’s show will close November 29, to be followed by large photographs on canvas by Margaret Gosden.
Mary and Mathieu are important reminders that beyond the great white box of galleries, opportunities can be as close and rewarding as a downstairs neighbor.
Paintings by Mary Westring: Series “Our Neighbor’s Laundry, from left to right, “Towels,” “Curtains,” “T-shirts,” and “Never on Sunday.” (Photos courtesy of the artist)
188 Grand Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211