New NYC photo exhibits that aren’t your typical museum fare – New York Post

Picture this: photography museums that are hotter than your average club.

Then again, there’s nothing average about Fotografiska and the International Center of Photography’s latest venue. New York’s newest showcase for photography and its most venerable, respectively, are shaking up the notion of what a museum can and should be.

“The question for museums nowadays is, ‘How do you create something new and different and special that will get people off their couch and away from their Netflix?’ ” says Fotografiska’s executive director, Pam Harris.

If Fotografiska is any indication, the answer is give them more. A lot more.

Set in a landmarked church house — more on the amazing architecture later — the new, six-floor museum in the Flatiron District offers much more than photography.  There’s a cocktail bar in its abandoned chapel, complete with stained glass windows and a confession booth. There are impromptu concerts and jam sessions by the likes of Lucinda Williams and actor Michael C. Hall. There’s even a guy living on the top floor, artist-in-residence Joseph Arthur, who paints, records podcasts and sleeps on a mattress on the floor as visitors watch. (He’s there through Feb. 12.)

“[It’s like] Soho House, but for arts and culture,” Harris tells The Post. “And more accessible for everyone to be a part of.”

Fotografiska New York , 281 Park Ave S.

Tamara Beckwith/NY Post

Fotografiska New York , 281 Park Ave S.

Tamara Beckwith/NY Post

Fotografiska New York , 281 Park Ave S.

Tamara Beckwith/NY Post

Fotografiska New York , 281 Park Ave S.

Tamara Beckwith/NY Post

Fotografiska New York , 281 Park Ave S.

Tamara Beckwith/NY Post

Fotografiska New York , 281 Park Ave S.

Tamara Beckwith/NY Post

Up Next

‘It’s Always Sunny’s’ Rob McElhenney dishes on ‘Mythic Quest’

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” creator and star Rob McElhenney…

6

View Slideshow

It’s not enough for a museum to showcase world-class art anymore. A 2017 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts found that only 24 percent of adults had visited a museum or gallery in the previous 12 months. Which is why institutions like Fotografiska and the ICP  — which just debuted its new home in the Lower East Side — are positioning themselves not just as cultural institutions, but community centers, nightlife hot spots and hangouts with food, shopping, entertainment and more.

Fotografiska was founded in Stockholm in 2010 by Jan and Per Broman, who wanted to celebrate photography as a democratic art form.

The Broman brothers “felt like photography shouldn’t just be put off in a room in a museum somewhere,” says Harris. “It’s this really accessible art form that everyone is doing themselves, so why not celebrate [that aspect of] it?”

The Stockholm Fotografiska became a hot spot, thanks to its late nights, cool architecture (it was located in an old customs house) and raucous events. The Flatiron outpost is its third location — its second is in Tallinn, Estonia — and it replicates that formula. Its home is the landmarked Church Missions House on Park Avenue and 22nd Street, which has been cleaned and restored to its medieval-inspired glory. It has a cafe, a breathtakingly grand European-style restaurant, Verōnika, and V, the intimate chapel bar. The store boasts not only photography books and posters but also Scandinavian design objects. It’s open till 11 p.m. most nights and till midnight Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays — and you will often stumble into a DJ set on the first floor, a live musical performance on the top floor or a screening or talk somewhere in between.

“The idea is you come to grab a drink and then you go into one of the galleries and then come down to the cafe and have a little snack and browse the shop and go back up,” says Harris.

The exhibits, too, aren’t your typical museum fare: fashion shutterbug Ellen von Unwerth’s sexy snaps; Helene Schmitz’s large-scale landscapes ravaged by climate change; queer Israeli Adi Nes’ staged biblical tableaux. There’s a local focus too, with Brooklyn-based artist Tawny Chatmon’s Klimt-inspired hand-painted photos of black mothers and children, and photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind’s deep dive on New York City’s caregivers.

While Fotografiska has created its own world, the new ICP feels wholly embedded in the fabric of the Lower East Side, after stints on Museum Mile, in Midtown and on the Bowery.

“This is the first time ICP is back in a community where people are actually living,” says ICP executive director Mark Lubell. (The collection was originally housed on the Upper East Side from 1977 to 1985, when it moved across from Bryant Park.) “The Lower East Side has great diversity, and the people here are already participating in and relating to photography — so I think to be in dialogue with the community is really significant.”

International Center of Photography Museum, 79 Essex St.

Stefano Giovannini

International Center of Photography Museum, 79 Essex St.

Stefano Giovannini

International Center of Photography Museum, 79 Essex St.

Stefano Giovannini

International Center of Photography Museum, 79 Essex St.

Stefano Giovannini

International Center of Photography Museum, 79 Essex St.

Stefano Giovannini

International Center of Photography Museum, 79 Essex St.

Stefano Giovannini

Up Next

‘It’s Always Sunny’s’ Rob McElhenney dishes on ‘Mythic Quest’

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” creator and star Rob McElhenney…

6

View Slideshow

The exhibits are quintessentially New York. “Contact High: A Visual History of Hip Hop,” features indelible images of local legends Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z and Queen Latifah. Brooklyn-based artist Tyler Mitchell — who became the first black photographer to shoot a cover for Vogue in 2018 — has a gorgeous installation featuring portraits of black youth. James Coup has created a video art piece specifically for ICP’s opening dedicated to the cult post-apocalyptic NYC movie “The Warriors.”

And, of course, there’s a show dedicated to iconic images from the Lower East Side.

“It’s fascinating because photographers have been coming to the Lower East Side since the 19th century,” says Erin Barnett, director of exhibitions and collections. “It’s both quintessentially American and New York, and it’s still home for so many artists.”

But more importantly, the new ICP is exceedingly welcoming. The huge windows facing the street feature big, enticing images by NYC titans like Gordon Parks and Weegee. The first-floor cafe allows visitors to chat over coffee and snacks from the nearby Essex Street Market without buying a ticket. One of the installations on the second floor has a faux-grass lawn with bean bag pillows for lounging.

The museum will also offer free admission the first Saturday of every month and $3 admission for lower-income families on government assistance with their SNAP card. (Admission is typically $16 for adults.) Starting in March, ICP will host DJ nights, kids activities like a zine-making class and after-hours tours, along with collaborations with other neighborhood institutions like the arthouse cinema Metrograph.

And that, says Lubell, is what the new role of the museum is all about. “The art and the dialogue surrounding the art doesn’t just stop at the exit,” he says. “It continues out onto the street.”