Can Gallerist Daniele Balice Bring the Art World to Midtown?

The Film Center Building, which will house the Balice Hertling & Lewis gallery come September, was designed by Ely Jacques Kahn in 1928-29. Photo by Andrew Russeth.

“There is no real business plan,” Paris gallerist Daniele Balice told The Observer during a telephone interview earlier today. “We have no idea what is going to happen.” He laughed. “It’s more of a romantic idea.”

Mr. Balice was discussing plans for the New York gallery that he is opening with Alexander Hertling (with whom he started the Paris-based Balice Hertling gallery in 2007) and art critic David Lewis, which will be called Balice Hertling & Lewis.

The gallery will reside in a peculiar location: the fourth floor of the Art Deco-style Film Center Building on Ninth Avenue, between 44th and 45th Streets, on the edge of Times Square. “Some people may not think it is a very sophisticated place, but it feels real.” Mr. Balice said. “It feels like there is a possibility for something here.”

Though the Film Center Building stands apart from Manhattan’s main gallery neighborhoods, Mr. Balice noted that Chelsea is only five minutes away by car, and that the Museum of Modern Art is only a few blocks to the northeast. (“We wanted to have an institution close to us,” he said.) Artists are moving into the Garment District, he added, and there are still dozens of cheap bars and restaurants nearby, which can’t be said of contemporary Chelsea or Soho.

In Paris, Balice Hertling represents a number of artists with New York representation, including K8 Hardy, Stephen Willats and Oscar Tuazon, but Mr. Balice said the new gallery will not represent those artists here. “We have a lot of friends in New York,” he told The Observer. “We don’t want to get into competition with them.”

Instead, the gallery will focus on New York artists. “We all believe there are so many great artists here,” Mr. Balice said. “It’s surprising galleries are not picking them up yet.” Balice Hertling & Lewis opens on Sept. 16 with a show by New York painter Charles Mayton, followed by an exhibition of work by the veteran feminist artist Mary Beth Edelson, who will show at Balice Hertling in Paris at the same time.

Opening in an otherwise gallery-free section of town, Mr. Balice and his partners are betting that people will go out of their way to visit the space, a gambit has met with mixed results. Taxter & Spengemann, for instance, decamped from Chelsea for the East Village and then returned to Chelsea, while galleries such as Broadway 1602 and Ubu have been operating successfully in somewhat unusual locations, in the Madison Square Park area and East Midtown, respectively.

“The priority for now is to create an artist community around the gallery,” Mr. Balice said, discussing his Midtown plans.

The gallery, he noted, is only a bit larger than 500 square feet, one third smaller than Balice Hertling. “It’s a project space,” Mr. Balice explained. “The idea is to start small.”

Can Gallerist Daniele Balice Bring the Art World to Midtown?