From an art historical perspective, an era during 1960's New York City has not been thoroughly explored. The artist run gallery is being viewed as not only a space run by the artists themselves for financial gain, but more so a space that cultivated collaboration and vast creativity. Recently, this oversight has become an increasingly popular topic and an important aspect of the city's long historic art scene.
A recent exhibition, "Inventing Downtown" presented by curator Melissa Rachleff at the Grey Art Gallery, highlighted fourteen of these galleries and their impact of the surrounding art scene at the time and onward. Looking at specific districts, Rachleff showcased how these artists were inspired to sell art in the areas they called home, thus solidifying certain districts as artist neighborhoods such as the East Village. As an alternative to the commercial art scene, these galleries provided a whole new opportunity and possibilities to sell, but also to interact with peers. Rachleff utilized artwork and documentation to share the multitude of artistic activity that included installations, political groups, and infamous performance art "happenings". The exhibit provided a snapshot of the artistic thrill this period presented and the artists who rose because of it.
Among galleries such as the Tanager, the Hansa, and The Center, artist Claes Oldenburg established The Store. A storefront that Oldenburg used as both a studio and gallery, that he displayed brightly colored sculptures of cakes, sneakers, and pies, much like the merchandise being sold at the surrounding real stores. This was a starting point to Oldenburg's successful career and these sculptures became his renowned contribution to the burgeoning Pop Art movement.
A book, "Inventing Downtown: Artist Run Galleries in New York City 1952-1965" was created along with the exhibition, and shows that this is not the last we have seen of this critical moment in history. With so much that came out of it, this period will continue to be an area of interest and exploration.