Considering, drafting, and generating art is the bulk of the creative process, but there’s one other aspect that is just as vibrant, just as exciting: sharing that work with an audience. That final coda of the process has been more difficult during the pandemic, with venues shuttered and galleries closed. A chance for visitors to engage with art, it also proves vital to its creators in that, hopefully, a financial transaction will ensure. Experiencing art is not as easy over Zoom as it is IRL, which is also the name of a new storefront collective giving artists a chance to showcase their work and visitors the opportunity to take it in — and take it home, on the spot, if they so enjoy it.
Started in September by Chris Cerny and Alice Demoëte, IRL is located at 80 Franklin Street in Greenpoint where it’s been premiering works by established and up-and-coming artists alike, all with the intention of putting money in those creatives’ pockets. Though this unique space has been one made in response to the pandemic, IRL hopes to stick around regardless as a place to offer community and relief for artists. Here, Chris and Alice detail the journey of founding IRL, which has a rotating set of hours (detailed on their Instagram) and a steadfast commitment to mask wearing, social distancing, and safety prioritizing.
Greenpointers: Let’s start at the beginning: you’ve been on 80 Franklin for a few months now, yes? Was IRL something that was in the works pre-pandemic?
Alice Demoëte and Chris Cerny, founders of IRL: We opened IRL on Sept 3, 2020 with the intention to create a safe framework for artists to exhibit and sell work to make a living during the pandemic. IRL is a contemporary art+sound gallery as well as a store and performance space: a platform dedicated to art and creative practices for the neighborhood we live in.
We thought about starting a project before the pandemic but the circumstances definitely shaped it to what it is now. Over the last three months we’ve hosted eight solo exhibitions and countless activations outside regular gallery hours like screenings, sound sculptures, audio-visual installation, and more — everything limited capacity but nonetheless very lively and beautiful.
Since December 5, IRL became an “art shop”: we show and sell the works of more than 20 artists, like a gift shop with original artwork by emerging as well as renowned artists. We are trying to keep the prices accessible so more people can start collecting art. We will also feature furniture, clothing, plants, records — everything locally sourced and/or made! We are planning on doing this for the month of December and throughout the winter.
It seems the goal now is to give a number of artists a chance to showcase their work and sell it on the spot, putting money immediately in their pockets during this difficult time. How has it been going?
Thats right! You can come to IRL, browse through our art collection, and buy on the spot and take it with you. We are rotating and adding art very often.
By turning the gallery into a collective art shop, we are offering more artists the opportunity to exhibit and sell work.
It’s been a tough ride but we are steadily growing our audience and have had great shows — it’s hard to define what success is during this time; we are just happy to do what we do for as long as we can.
So the name IRL — I assume that’s a play on “in real life,” as in you offer a place these days to actually come together and see art with an added sonic feature? And what role does sound play in your space?
Yes, it was important for us to still find a way to be together in real life, to not completely give up on urban cultural practices. It’s also a way to respond to some economic, social and creative necessities, and the challenge is to do it as safely as possible.
The project has a big focus on sound as we have hosted concerts, audio-visual installations, screenings at the gallery as well. We have both worked for venues and clubs in the city before and wanted to keep on doing it our way. It took us a few months to find the right sound system for this project; ultimately we went with a powerful and fun system consisting of new RCF HDM45 speakers and Cerwin Vega Subwoofers, which we first encountered in Tokyo at our favorite night club, Forestlimit. We love to play music on the system during shop hours — mostly jazz, ambient, and techno and hope to resume our live music programming soon.
Talk a little about the curation process for this shop.
We started the project working mostly with friends and friends of friends. Slowly more and more people came to the gallery and introduced their work, adding more ingredients to the mix! It feels very organic.
What has the response been to this pop-up? (Is pop-up the right word; will you be around for a bit?)
So far so good 🙂
IRL is housed inside this beautiful and strange building on Franklin — a former social club in art deco style which has a very residential feel to it — and people really love the space. We hope we’ll manage to keep IRL running for a little while longer, but this pandemic has shown us that long-term planning can be very tricky. We really improvise every day and hope for the best.
Anything else you’d like to add? Thanks so much!
We are updating our opening hours weekly! The best way to check hours and stay updated with what we do is to look at our Instagram: @irl.nyc