Le Baron of Love

Mr. A in sexier times. (Photo by Foc Kan/Wireimage)

“Whoa, what kind of line is this?” asked a homeless man briefly joining the queue outside Half Gallery on Saturday night. “Nuh-uh, not tonight. Going to have to skip this gallery.” He wandered down Forsyth Street.

The tiny space was packed with artists, collectors, and the denizens of Purple magazine for a show by the graffiti artist André Saraiva, a.k.a Mr. A, who just opened a branch of his notorious Le Baron nightclub downtown. The exhibition, titled “Love Letters,” featured drawings Mr. Saraiva had made for his girlfriend on hotel stationary, as well as French mailboxes he’d tagged with his signature smiley grin.

“I used to paint every mailbox in the city,” Mr. Saraiva said. He stood in the corner near a mailbox and estimated that he’d done 5,000 in Paris alone. “The city hated me. They were running after me. They had a special squad that was trying to find me. I had to hide, I had to go out of the country and after they started painting it yellow again, I would come back and repaint them. It was really a cat-and-mouse battle.”

Olivier Zahm took several photos of gallery co-owner Bill Powers in front of one of the works while Mr. Powers framed his sprouting locks between his hands, Mr. Zahm’s flash tagged with an “XO” by Mr. Saraiva, as Bob Morris stood in the doorway scribbling notes. There was also a French TV crew, whose host, Juliette, wore a fur cap. “We’re here for André and Olivier,” said the cameraman.

The drawings were at times sentimental, and at times less so. One featured a mock-up of a dollar bill with labia where George Washington should be that read, “In Pussy We Trust.”

“Do you want that one?” a Le Baron investor asked his young daughter as she pointed at a drawing that intertwined the letters of André’s name with that of his girlfriend, Annabelle Dexter-Jones.

“It makes you dream about love again,” Mr. Zahm said of the show. He put a Budweiser can on one of the mailboxes and gestured to a nearby drawing. “When you look at this drawing, you want to fall in love again.” The drawing was a picture of a note that read “Fall in Love Again.” “We’re too much in love with ourselves,” he continued, turning away from it. “It’s time to fall in love again with someone new. The point is to love again. Art is not about buying commodities, products. You can buy these little drawings or this letterbox, but art is about connecting people who don’t connect anymore.”

A short woman in a tan coat approached Mr. Zahm. “Oh!” she said cutely.

“Oh! Salut!” he replied, both of them mock-surprised. He wrapped his arms around her waist and hosted her up, in a bear hug. Then he turned his head and looked through his aviators right at Gallerist. “It’s time to love again, hein?”

He kissed her on the cheek.

“Again! Again!” said the woman in the tan jacket, in the air. “Many more!”

Le Baron of Love