Tangled up in the beats of my headphones, I quickly realize I’ve missed my stop. I don’t normally phase out underground, but in that post-work daze the rumbling of the tracks beneath Manhattan nearly put me to sleep. I jump off at Spring St. and immediately start booking it east. Before I knew it, I’m already swinging a left up the Bowery, and like clockwork I pause to take in the awe of one of the city’s most intriguing buildings. Originally built as a German bank just before the turn of the 20th century on the corner of Bowery and Spring, the towering granite structure has more recently become a pallet for graffiti and a neighborhood icon. The layered street art plastered over such an fine example of renaissance revival design really makes you stop and ponder for a moment. A hundred times over, I’ve found myself gazing at this unique architectural beast, but this time I noticed that the alluring front doors were slightly ajar. Ignoring the fact I was supposed to be somewhere, my Narnia inspired motives instantly drew me up the few rounded steps. In a matter of seconds the left door slid open, a woman grinning ear-to-ear shuffled past me, and I shimmied my way in. Confronted by a security guard and - to my interpretation – a gallery manager, I was now standing in a huge room scattered with massive canvases. The man next to the guard, Reuben Cobia, introduced himself and briefly explains that they’re closing in five minutes but if I’d like to take a walk through I’m more than welcome to.
The answer was obvious: yes, I’d LOVE to see as much as I can in now just over four minutes. I grabbed a gallery guide and was on my way. Passing from tiled to hardwood flooring, overwhelmed by excitement, I quickly found out I was in a group exhibition titled “First Show/Last Show” curated by New York’s own Vito Schnabel. Difficult not to rush, I swept through the first large space viewing pieces by Jeff Elrod, Dan Colen, and Vito’s father Julian Schnabel.
In the rear space an untitled Mark Grotjahn hung next to a room full of new Harmony Korine paintings, each popping with their own emotion of color. Around the corner I noticed two visitors descending from a subtly hidden flight of stairs, and I bound up them to discover a tiny loft perfectly framed by a trio of Ron Gorchov pieces, from the mid-to-late 70s. The focal point of this space was an alluring blue piece entitled Ulysses; its richness drew you in like no other. All of a sudden, another security guard was requesting I head towards the exit. In a whirlwind I was being swept towards the two doors I’ve seen shut from the street so many times before. Approaching the front of the house, I caught a glimpse of a Joe Bradley diptych against the left wall on my way out. I exchanged a few words with Reuben, thanking him for the opportunity to view the exhibit, and I was back on the street.
It took me a moment to process what had just happened. Having just stepped inside a building that has always been a space of mystique was absolutely unreal. And with no concept of what to expect, saying I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. I am confident a large amount of well connected New Yorkers were able to experience Schnabel’s “First Show/Last Show,” but I’d like to think I was one of the lucky few that snuck in for a quick glimpse at history. Maybe not for the textbooks, but historical in that New York minute kind of way.