A few years ago, when the New York gallerist Jack Shainman toured the 20,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts space that he’ll open this week as the Hall, his new TriBeCa gallery, he told his staff to play it cool around the real estate agent — and then, once inside the long-neglected lower floors of the Clock Tower Building (46 Lafayette Street), quickly showed his hand: “It’s like buying a living sculpture: the columns, the marble, the stairs,” he said on a recent afternoon, gesturing at a row of large, arched windows. After acquiring it, he and his partner, the Spanish painter Carlos Vega, waited two years while developers renovated and restored the landmarked lobby and adjacent rooms, all built around 1898 by the firm McKim, Mead & White and once home to the New York Life Insurance Company. Now nearly complete, Shainman’s gallery is not only a new cultural center where people can see ambitious free exhibits; it also offers visitors a rare chance to marvel at some historic Manhattan architecture, with its complex, preserved bank vault and ornate, 29-foot-high coffered wood ceilings.
Compared to the white box that Shainman’s had in Chelsea since 1997, which will remain open, or the School, his quirkier upstate venue founded in 2013, this spot will be a much larger place that the artists he represents can transform to suit their needs, whether monumental or more intimate. It’ll officially open in September, when the artist Nick Cave will unveil, among other new works, a 16-foot-tall bronze sculpture. But as of Jan. 12, anyone can walk in and see “Broken Spectre,” the Irish artist Richard Mosse’s immersive 74-minute multi-spectral video installation about the destruction of the Amazon, filmed between 2019 and 2022. It’s the first time the piece — presented on 60 feet of new, vivid LED screens with an enveloping soundscape — is being shown in Manhattan, and the deep connections between the city’s capitalist bedrock (and this building’s, in particular) aren’t lost on the artist or his gallerist: “Here was a bank that traded on the lives of enslaved people,” Mosse says. “This was the wealth that Manhattan was built on, that America was built on, and there’s a direct connection to what’s happening in the Amazon. Rather than disavow it, or pretend it never happened, [Jack and Carlos and I] are trying to be honest about it: This is history, and it’s still ongoing.” “Broken Spectre” is on view from Jan. 12 through March 16, jackshainman.com.