The best way to describe the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA)’s latest venture may be “small but mighty.” Its new year-round project space at a commercial mall on 75 E Broadway in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood is roughly the size of an art fair booth — about 10 by 10 feet. With the goal of showcasing artists from member galleries based outside of New York City, NADA joins a number of art spaces located in the East Broadway Mall, including galleries Tif Sigfrids and 106 Green.
NADA is known for its various initiatives in support of emerging galleries, artists, and arts nonprofits. In 2018, after five years, the organization canceled its foundational NYC art fair, opting instead to “dedicate additional resources to gallery programming.” (An annual fair is still held in Miami in December.) Since 2019, it has hosted NADA House, a sprawling public exhibition spread across 50 rooms of three Colonial Revival-era buildings in Governor’s Island; the organization also presents artist’s talks, performances, and workshops on practical topics like artwork insurance.
Opening this Saturday, September 18, the project space is the most recent addition to NADA’s program. Its inaugural exhibition, Light Show, features light-based sculptures by Colby Bird, James O. Clark, Corey Escoto, Guardian Angel School, Camille Henrot, Takashi Kunitani, Esther Ruiz, and Elke Solomon.
The show was inspired by the Lower East Side’s “Lighting District,” so-called for the numerous lamp and fixture shops along the Bowery. Many of these stores have been threatened by real estate speculation in recent years — a scourge that NADA, whose members are mostly small businesses, has actively challenged by advocating for commercial rent stabilization and other forms of rent relief, especially during the pandemic.
“This upcoming show is an opportunity to inaugurate the space with the work of eight amazing artists and pay homage to the group of small businesses in the lighting district along the Bowery, calling attention to the issues shared by both galleries and other small businesses alike,” Max Warsh, NADA’s Director of Programming, told Hyperallergic.
“In opening a space, it’s important for NADA to build an alliance with other small businesses in the area and foster support for shared issues, such as the advocacy for a commercial rent stabilization bill in City Council — which has a hearing this Friday, September 17,” said Warsh.
It’s worth noting Chinatown’s ongoing battle with gentrification. East Broadway Mall under the Manhattan Bridge, where NADA’s project room will be located, is primarily frequented by the neighborhood’s local immigrant population, but some of its vendors have been pushed out by rising rent costs. In 2018, the mall was the site of art world controversy when Tramps Gallery, located in a retail space on its second floor, held an exhibition of works by the German artist Kai Althoff. An article in 4Columns accused the artist of appropriating and caricaturing Asian culture and motifs, and the gallery of “occupy[ing] territory in a neighborhood under siege by real estate developers who use art galleries as Trojan horses for gentrification.”
In recent months, community organizations including the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side have asked the city to support small businesses doubly affected by real estate expansionism and anti-Asian discrimination deepened during the pandemic, including shops at East Broadway Mall.
NADA hopes its presence in the struggling commercial center will bring its neighbors closer in the collective fight for renters’ rights.
“Along with our advocacy for the commercial rent stabilization bill in support of small businesses in Chinatown and around the city, NADA also stands with the small businesses impacted by the potential takeover of the mall and will join community efforts to protect the businesses located there,” said Warsh.
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