Bridget Donahue co-founded Cleopatra’s, a modest storefront gallery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with three friends in 2008, and has put in time as the director of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, so when she decided to strike out in her own space, she had a very specific idea of what she wanted. “Not too skinny, no structural columns, 11-foot ceilings,” Donahue, 34, said last week, standing in the rough second-floor space on the corner of Bowery and Hester that now houses her namesake gallery. When her realtor showed her the place, it was love at first sight. “I walked in,” she recalled, “and I was like, ‘This is it.’”
The gallery, says Donahue, represents the synthesis of her varied art world experiences. “Cleo’s didn’t respond to trends. It really kept an idiosyncratic vibe,” she says. “And that merged with my working with exceedingly successful artists [at Gavin Brown]. You find some middle in there.”
The first exhibition, which debuted last Thursday, showcases the career of the 73-year-old artist Lynn Hershman Leeson. Known for exploring the relationship between humans and technology, her mixed media sculptures and photographs are sparsely installed in the 2,700-square foot spacing, leaving plenty of room for guests at the opening. The event drew scores of artists, curators and gallerists, though Gavin Brown, who was out of town that evening, was not in attendance. He had, however, offered his former employee some advice: “Don’t half-ass things, you’ve got to do it right.” She seems to have paid attention.