Alyssa Davis was a small gallery. So small, in fact, that he used to miss Davis’ apartment in the West Village. That is, before a private investigator hired by his building gathers enough evidence to close the space for violating zoning laws in April.
Founded in 2016, the gallery was known to insiders, as evidenced by the high attendance for Shit ! the Alyssa Davis Gala which was launched last night as a farewell to what once was and in celebration of what is (hopefully) to come.
In short, everyone was there. It was like an art ball.
Outside, the line for the so-called “funeral celebration” snaked around the block, expensive tickets already in hand. Strolling inside 99 Scott, a huge venue in East Williamsburg, were hundreds of guests, including gallerists, curators, artists, fashion people, nightlife legends, models , dancers and everyone in between. The party was so big that people were meeting not just friends from before the pandemic, but acquaintances from five or six years ago.
It’s no surprise that the Gala drew such a large crowd given the range of events organized by the organisers.
28 artists sang, danced and read on the outdoor stage, including an opera singer. A complete video program, including works by Rachel Rossin and Karine Smith played behind a velvet rope. Five portrait painters roamed the party and sat at picnic tables to do quick, live sketches of the guests. A red carpet was set up for people to take pictures in their long dresses.
In the depths of the room, the smoke machines and pulsed lights read more the discotheque than the gala. Musicians EarthEater, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal and Um Fang headlined, preceded and followed by a long list of local musicians.
Off to the side was a VIP room for guests who had shelled out a $250 ticket or were just cool enough to get those perks for free. Regular tickets for the event started at $40 and went up from there.
In the center of the space was a large, multi-level structure that housed the 64 pieces up for auction, 26 of which sold for an as-yet-unknown price. The auction included New Talent artists André Magaña and Diana Sofia Lozano, among many other talents. Each of the pieces was photographed in the previous weeks, in collaboration with No Agency, who arranged for the photos to be taken with models represented. Models took offers at the event until midnight.
Many of the performers and artists involved were there with support from downtown partner galleries such as Lubov, Anonymous, the carriage trade, Kings Leap, Entrance and many more.
An event like this is not easy to organize. “It’s incredibly ambitious,” artist Rachel Rossin said at the event. But it was made possible, in part, by the many, many artists like Rossin who contributed works or performances without expecting much in return. Having had no contact with Davis before, she found herself agreeing to contribute a short video to the film selection.
“We had so many friends in common, it was easy to say yes,” Rossin said.
What the ticket or auction proceeds would be used for was unclear to any of the artists who ART news spoke that night, but event organizers Alyssa Davis, Genevieve Goffman and Rachel Rosheger confirmed it was used to fund the party itself. A world of ouroboros art.
The artists seemed happy to contribute regardless.
“I assumed the money would go towards getting a new space or maybe doing this party to kind of get the energy or the momentum that would get people excited about a new space” , said Zoe Brezsny, co-founder of Gern en Regalia, as well as a guest poet to give a reading at the event. Brezsny considers Davis a good friend and was happy to be involved for any purpose.
A few disgruntled guests, who asked not to be named, suggested the event was somewhat misleading, having assumed that proceeds from ticket prices and auctions would support an artistic cause or start a new business. Alyssa Davis gallery. They felt that at least the local artists, not just the headliners, should be paid.
Davis, Goffman and Rosheger admit that the structure of the event made things a bit fuzzy.
“People hear gala and they assume it’s a fundraiser,” Davis said. “Our industry is intrinsically tied to the financial necessities of donations that come in the form of a gala evening.” She pauses, “But it was designed to be a bit confusing…”
“The art world is in this place where there are two ways for galleries to make money,” Goffman said. “There are the blue chip galleries that are for-profit and there are the smaller galleries that often follow a not-for-profit model, and if you’re a small gallery people assume it’s a for-profit project. non-profit. But there are plenty of community-run spaces that don’t fit either model.
For the organizers, Shit ! was a chance to experience another way to bring the community together, exhibit art and sell it too, as the artists in the auction would receive 50% of the hammer price.
“Ultimately, it was an event that we designed for the community,” Davis said. And the community showed up.