Fine Art Finds the Bowery

Joining Smith-Stewart at 53 Stanton is Luxe Gallery, which opens on Sept. 6 with a group show, “All the Way,” and another gallery founded by Swedish director-curator Rodrigo Mallea Lira.

“The artists that I’ve been visiting and asking to show are like, ‘So, what’s the context?’” said Augusto Arbizo, director at the uptown gallery Greenberg Van Doren, which will debut its outpost, Eleven Rivington, at that address on Sept. 26. “There is no context—you’re going to be making it as we go along.”

Mr. Arbizo says that in opening a space in the less conspicuously consumptive Bowery area, around the corner from a respected noncommercial art institution, his gallery is focused on the art itself, not the trappings of the art world.

“It’s not about a ‘brand-name’ dealer or a ‘brand-name’ space,” he said. “You’re definitely not going to leave Eleven Rivington and go, ‘Oh, my God, that was such a beautifully designed space,’ and you’re not going to go, ‘Oh, my God, Augusto is a great director.’ You’re going to leave the gallery and be thinking about how good or not good the art is.”

Many are comparing the Lower East Side’s art scene—the physical atmosphere, at least—to East London’s dispersed and understated environs. “It’s a maze,” proclaimed Ms. Smith-Stewart. “It’s old New York, so the streets are really much smaller and you really have to look to find spaces.”

“The architecture on the Bowery does not leave a lot of very large natural column-free spaces,” said the dealer Zach Feuer, founder of the New Art Dealers Alliance.

“It’s gonna have a poured concrete floor; it’s gonna have color-corrected fluorescent lighting; it will feel more like a European gallery space, I guess,” said David Maupin about his outpost. “You know, because it’s not huge, it’s very intimate.”

And Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, owner of Salon 94, on East 94th at Fifth Avenue, had this to say about her satellite gallery, dubbed Salon 94 Freemans, which will open on Freemans Alley, off Rivington, on Sept. 12: “You walk down this alleyway, you already are taken outside of New York, you already feel like you’re in, kind of like, an Amsterdam street. You just can’t locate it as specifically New York.”

After maintaining spaces in both Chelsea and the Bowery, Jimi Dams moved his gallery, Envoy, from 22nd Street to Chrystie Street in January. He agonized over how to break the news to his artists, which include promising novices as well as high-selling midcareer and mature talent. “I thought they were gonna kill me,” Mr. Dams said. But “there was not one artist, not one, that told me, ‘Do you think that’s wise?’ None!” he said, incredulous. “They all were like, ‘Yeah, it’s awful here, you need to get outta there. Yeah, close it!’ I was very happy.”

A jovial Belgian, Mr. Dams wears skull-faced metal rings on every finger. Below his gallery, in the building’s basement, is a bar, Home Sweet Home, where, he said, all gallery after-parties are held and a series called “Envoy Presents” brings new bands to perform.

“Maybe they think that they get lost in the art shopping mall that is Chelsea,” Mr. Dams said of the response his artists had to the move to Chrystie Street. “What they want to do, or what they want to say, or what they want to bring across gets lost.”

But that’s the thing about brave new worlds: They get more and more populous and increasingly less open.

“North of Delancey a lot might change in a short amount of time, probably even faster than what happened in Chelsea,” said Mr. Dams.

“What happened in Chelsea took like about, say, 10 years to go to the point where it became really oversaturated. It’s gonna be faster here, I think, but only north of Delancey, not south.”

Why?

“It’s Chinatown,” he said. “The Chinese won’t stand for it. And I’m very happy with my Chinese landlord!”

Fine Art Finds the Bowery