It all began with a taxi ride. Carlos Santolalla, a photographer working under the moniker Raat City, had just finished modeling in DKNY's FW '14 runway show and an unexpected opportunity appeared. "After we did the show," he shares with CH, "I was in a cab with someone from Donna Karan and I said we should do an art show together. After we talked further, they thought it was a good idea. By the next week they had given me a check." Tomorrow, the result of such a serendipitous exchange premieres as a one-night-only group show dubbed "New Art City." Santolalla's first time as curator sees over 20 artists—emerging and established—come together with a view in mind to tackle the identity of real New York. From large-scale installations to intimate photography, it's an exciting, clever and at times aggressive debut.
Santolalla explains the taxicab discussion was prompted by the fact he'd never had an art show before. "I've had people buy prints from me after I started putting everything up on the internet, but I had never even thought I would actually do a show. It's just something I had imagined." He thinks of "New Art City" as an introduction, and already admits he has "a ton of precise concepts for the future and the next ones." While the breadth and depth of his own work warrants a solo show, right now he's more than pleased to share the space with this group of talented artists.
Santolalla put out a call for contributors and, as he describes, it spiderwebbed from there. "I've been friends with [photographer] Sandy Kim and [artist] Jeanette Hayes for a long time and I asked them first, and they told me to ask their friends. Then everyone began sending me art. I had at least 150 submissions and just started picking people who I thought would blend together as a community." Work from A$AP Ferg is not far from Brandee Brown's contribution. Artist Cole Mohr's piece is a few steps from Miyako Bellizzi. Ultimately, the community is reflective of the many different types of personalities the city has to offer.
An entire room showcases the work of artist Matt Starr, where he has given life to a thematically ambitious wonderland of downtown cleanliness. There, a yoga goddess dangles over a grassy knoll and a full juice bar touts a clean lifestyle (though that bar will be serving rum during the event). Starr was asked to center his installation on the downtown scene, and its role almost as an urban oasis. "I was more interested in the SoulCycles and the juiceries, and I thought that was a better representation of what downtown actually is. I was really influenced by Citibike and Citibank and Citigroup and Citifield and my prediction is, in about 10 years, there will be a Citi-sponsored city. So I created this lifestyle brand called 'Diet' in this space," Starr tells us. He constructed diet condoms and diet cigarettes to be sold in an entire diet store. Even the ceiling will be covered with projections referencing the whole health infatuation.
An additional standout piece hails from Sophia Lamar, an artist and famed fixture in New York nightlife. "My piece is based on when I take my makeup off. I collect the tissues and I make work with them, all these mixed hues of makeup," Lamar notes. Some of the tissues are as old as five or six years, and saturated with color—all presented together in the form of a collage. It's an appropriate, impressive piece for a show digging into identity.
Santolalla's vision of the city, as portrayed by his art and that which he has selected, is electric and alive. There are moments of sensitivity banging against harsh critiques. There's diversity. There's hope and humor. "I had just moved to New York and I was broke but I still thought everything I was doing was amazing," he says about how he entered the world of photography in the first place. DKNY took a chance, and now New York is culturally richer.
"New Art City" opens tomorrow, 28 August 2014 from 7-10PM, at The Safari Gallery, located at 255 West Broadway, NYC.
Matt Star and Sophia Lamar images by Cool Hunting, all other images courtesy of New Art City