Stefania Bortolami has been part of New York’s art scene for years: first, as an artist liaison for Larry Gagosian—after a successful stint with the legendary London dealer Anthony d’Offay; then co-owning a Chelsea gallery with Amalia Dayan and finally, on her own, as the founder of an eponymous gallery five blocks down the street from the previous space. This May, Bortolami relocated again, this time to Tribeca, joining the likes of Team Gallery, The Drawing Center and Alexander and Bonin in gradually forming yet another art neighborhood in the dynamic Downtown New York.
Sun & Stripes
On the sunny morning of our interview in Bortolami’s new space, I take a pause on the pavement across the street from the gallery, on the spot that offers the best view of the neoclassical columns decorating its façade, each covered in vertical black-and-white stripes. Daniel Buren, the French grand maître for years gracing Bortolami’s artist roster, transformed the columns as part of his solo show inaugurating the new gallery. The stripes may well become the hallmark of the building, as Stefania has received a permit to preserve them until 2021.
Bortolami is fashionably late. No wonder—she must still be in the habit of taking a short walk to her former space, located near her Chelsea loft. I take this opportunity to see what the show looks like inside. A row of colorful columns flanks each side of the long hallway leading into the main space of the gallery—a spacious room completely filled with the same square columns, colored blue, red and yellow on each facet, except for the one that faces the back wall. The columns’ back side bears Buren’s signature 8.7-centimeter vertical stripes, alternating in white and black. I walk to the very back and then look up at the only window in the room—an expansive skylight bearing a sequence of multicolored filters applied by Buren, in a manner similar to his decorations on Frank Gehry’s Louis Vuitton Foundation building in Paris. Despite the pure joy projected by this radiant color, I can’t get rid of a murky feeling produced by the view below. When you look back to the room, all the colors completely vanish. All that’s left is a black-and-white wall of striped columns, leading back to the entrance, as if one walked into a jewel box and is forced to leave through a prison gate