Art Insider: Alex Zachary

A Gavin Brown staffer strikes out on his own.


ALEX ZACHARY’S GARDEN-LEVEL GALLERY on Manhattan’s East 77th Street, just off Fifth Avenue, is not, as one would expect by its address, an elegant space. “It’s hideous,” Zachary admits. “Everything about it is wrong.” But for the 28-year-old former staffer at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, who has a slightly twisted take on the art world, it’s a fitting home. When he decided almost two years ago to buck the market’s downward trend and open his own place in the least hip area he could think of—the posh Upper East Side—“the goal was to find something out of place,” he explains. “Because we would be out of place.” Thus, the oddly configured, outdated duplex, formerly owned by furniture importer and consultant George Beylerian. In the late Seventies, it was considered a pillar of chic, regularly profiled in design magazines. “It looked really good,” Zachary says. “It looks significantly less good now.”

Deciding not to touch a thing (“I don’t know where you’d even begin,” he says), Zachary has let the space dictate the shows, which have tended toward the unconventional: Ken Okiishi’s 72-­minute film pitting images of contemporary Berlin against Woody Allen’s Manhattan; Rainer Ganahl’s interviews with Jewish New Yorkers who escaped World War II; Amelie von Wulffen’s watercolors of fruits and vegetables fornicating. He recently exhibited the paintings of Mark van Yetter, a young Istanbul-­based artist who once ran a record shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In February, Zachary plans an exhibit of new work by Lutz Bacher, a West Coast appropriation artist who had a retrospective at MoMA PS1 in 2009. “Most shows would look better elsewhere,” he concedes, “so you have to think about the kinds of work to which this space adds value.”