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Nuts and Bolts of Art in Brooklyn

  • Peter Fedynsky

NEW YORK — Brooklyn, New York has become known in recent years as a haven for artists. Many have found a rather unusual patron who encourages their creativity. He also provides them with an unusual space to exhibit their art.

Screws and metal washers are typically used in construction. But a customer at Brooklyn’s Crest Hardware store used them to create an image of company founder, Manny Franquinha.

This month, the store is doubling as a gallery for the fifth annual Crest Hardware Art Show, featuring nearly 300 works by more than 120 artists. Everything on display is about hardware or made from it.

Throughout the store, reimagined tools share space with real tools … and toilet seats are a perennial theme, according to visitors.

Art created from hardware includes a peace symbol made of welded nails; a geometric sculpture assembled with plastic pipe, and a colorful hanging plant in the garden section made of plastic bottles.

The venue, of course, is a store, not a gallery. This appeals to artist Chris Camperchioli a New York newcomer who hopes to display his work at Crest someday.

“I think it’s great to see some work that’s outside of a normal gallery setting," said Camperchioli. "That’s what I’m used to doing and if you’re in a white cube [exhibit space], it doesn’t matter where you are. I think it’s really cool to be in a very neighborhood hardware store.”

Some of the art is abstract, some is whimsical, some of it grotesque. One piece, entitled Octopi Wall Street, is a play on [the English words for] the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

Visitor Yoav Litvin says the show reveals the expressive nature of Brooklyn’s diverse immigrant community.

“This store is trying to bring that kind of message to the people; a focus on art and how art is fundamental to any society, any free society. It’s the expression of every free society," said Litvin.

The exhibit is free, but most of the works are for sale, with prices ranging from $15 to $15,000 for this sculpture. Yoga Warrior costs $8,000. Crest Hardware donates all its proceeds to the Brooklyn Reliquary, a museum that collects local memorabilia.

The store's current owner and art show curator, Manny’s son Joe Franquinha, says the exhibit advertises the store, but more importantly, expresses appreciation to the community that supports the 50-year-old family business.

“Being able to showcase artwork for all of the artists who are our customers and beyond, and for people who wouldn’t normally feel comfortable going into a gallery, feel comfortable walking the aisles, taking a map, looking at the listing and appreciating art," said Franquinha.

The month-long Crest Hardware Art Show kicked off with a one-day festival attended by some 6,000 people, 50 percent more than last year. Joe Franquinha says he expects the show to keep on growing.
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