By about 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, throngs of eager New Yorkers were assembled outside 190 Bowery, hoping for access to a just-announced art show inside the 150-year-old former bank building. First Show / Last Show was celebrated as a chance for the public to see inside 190—which has been mostly inaccessible for decades—before the arrival of its new tenants. Not many people got in.
Photographer Jay Maisel famously used the 72-room building as a single-family home after he bought it for $102,000 in 1966. Thanks largely to Maisel’s low public profile and the layers of graffiti that built up during his tenancy, 190 Bowery became an object of fascination and nostalgia for downtowners who pined for a Bowery of an earlier era.
So the show—put on by Heidi Klum’s slick-haired boyfriend Vito Schnabel and Aby Rosen, the real estate magnate who bought 190 for $55 million from Maisel last year—had people excited. Not so much for its lineup of white guys, including Harmony Korine and Vito’s celebrity artist dad Julian, but for its setting. What would 190 Bowery look like inside?
But on Friday, Artnet reported that the show was “abruptly closed to the public for reasons unknown.” (“It’s not surprising that Rosen, Schnabel, and their coterie of rich and famous friends got a little spooked by the prospect of the unwashed masses showing up to rub elbows with the art elite,” Cait Munro wrote.) That didn’t stop the public from showing up and rubbing elbows anyway. And judging from Gothamist’s scene report, the public was pissed.
“It’s just b.s. This whole crowd turned out for an event they thought they’d have access to,” 26-year-old Brooklyn resident Maria Cortorreal said. “This would have been an amazing event for everyone to just finally see what’s going on inside.” As Cortorreal and others stood outside 190 Bowery, guards pleaded with would-be visitors to disperse and clear the sidewalk, with some yelling that the show was “already over.” Pissed off crowd members said they were told by hosts at the building’s entrance that the public opening was only an “internet rumor.” Shouts of “fascists!” and “this isn’t art!” erupted from the group, with the strongest reactions coming from older fans of the building who viewed it as a forbidden wonder for decades.
First Show / Last Show will be open by appointment only until May 29. Good luck getting in the door if you don’t have enough cash to seriously consider dropping five or six figures on a painting.