Nestled among dumpling shacks and convenience stores Margaret Lee and Oliver Newton's gallery is becoming a destination of its own.
Before there was 47 Canal, the gallery Margaret Lee and Oliver Newton started in 2011, there was 179 Canal, a rambunctious den in a burned-out Chinatown building where Lee and her friends—emerging talents like the photographer Michele Abeles and the multimedia artist Josh Kline, both now 47 Canal artists—hosted offbeat exhibitions and wild parties. After the not-for-profit clubhouse closed in 2010, Lee, an artist who also works for Cindy Sherman, sought to keep the family together. “It was a little too Melrose Place,” she says. “But I just couldn’t stand the idea of everyone going off to separate galleries.” She brought on Newton, her boyfriend and a former director at Chelsea’s Alexander and Bonin (“He actually knew how to run a proper gallery,” Lee says), and the two set up shop, professionalizing the operation but keeping the esprit de corps. New additions to the roster are often vetted collectively by the gallery artists, and Lee and Newton go to great lengths to transform the second-floor walk-up space to suit their artists’ wants, often closing down for a month to build out an exhibition. For a 2011 installation by Anicka Yi, who uses food and other perishables (her latest show opens there this month), they erected a small room that unfortunately “leaked olive oil all over,” Newton recalls. “But we don’t think it was disastrous. It’s the art world—how wrong can things really go?”