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Is It Street Wear or Is It Art? – The New York Times



As the number of abandoned storefronts and closed retail outlets continues to mount, the once unremarkable activity of shopping at brick-and-mortar stores can feel like reality askew — like a stroll through the Twilight Zone. As this glum new normal becomes, well, the norm, signs of life can be almost as jarring.

Take, for instance, a pair of storefront windows on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood. Just recently they were lifeless reminders of an upscale furniture store, now defunct. Then, in August, they began to fill with seemingly unconnected objects: bluejeans piled in a chest-high mound, a lounge chair upholstered in denim, a mannequin in a jumpsuit with an eyeball for a head standing amid a sea of paint-splattered drop cloths.

Hand-painted signage in the other window offered only that this “Appointment Only” storefront with the cryptic displays, and the 6,000 square feet of retail space behind them, are the domain of Gallery Dept.

Despite the name, Gallery Dept. isn’t a gallery or a department store but a hybrid clothing label that sits somewhere in the Venn diagram overlap between street wear label, denim atelier, neighborhood tailor and vintage store. Just as accurately, you could call Gallery Dept. the personal art project of its founder Josué Thomas, a designer whose own creative urges are just as disparate and layered.

With so many small brands in a state of retreat this summer, Mr. Thomas’s label has not only weathered these spirit-crushing conditions but thrived. In less than two years, Gallery Dept. has moved from a crowded workshop a few blocks down Beverly Boulevard to its new space in part because its hoodies, logo tees, anoraks and flare-cut jeans — each designed and hand-painted by Mr. Thomas on upcycled or dead-stock garments — have become unlikely objets d’art in a crowded street wear market.

This corner of the fashion industry is a crowded one, and in recent years there have been a glut of collaborations and merch drops that have taken on a corporate cadence. In contrast, Gallery Dept. is something of a bespoke operation, offering street wear basics that are blessed with an artist’s (in this case Mr. Thomas’s) singular touch.

Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times
Credit…James Law

Mr. Thomas began to cut jeans and screen-print shirts as the mood struck in 2017, and since that time Gallery Dept. has grown from an underground cult label for collectors to one with atmospheric clout after being worn by Kendall Jenner, LeBron James, Kendrick Lamar and two of the three Migos (Offset and Quavo).

Those lucky enough to enter the appointment-only space, now booked with up to 20 appointments a day, are greeted inside by a 20-foot-tall span of wall that reads, “Art That Kills” in a large crawl text, and the occasional reference to Rod Serling’s seminal sci-fi program.

Throughout the sunlit store, Mr. Thomas’s abstract paintings and writings fill the spaces between clothing racks and bright brass shelves heavy with the brand’s thick hoodies and sweatpants. Over the chug of sewing machines, one can hear snippets of bossa nova Muzak, a vinyl-only mix also made by Mr. Thomas. (There are also plans to release music by other artists, including the New York rapper Roc Marciano, under an Art That Kills imprint.)

Gallery Dept.’s new space was financed on the strength of e-commerce sales from this past spring, and not with the help of venture capital or outside investors, Mr. Thomas said on a recent walk-through. This freedom gives him and the label, which now employs 12 people, the freedom to operate on its own esoteric terms. And there are a few. In the store’s dressing rooms, there are no mirrors to survey a fit. (“We’re going to tell you if a piece works or not,” he said.) Nor are there price tags on its garments.

“If the first thing you look at is the price, it’s going to alter your thinking about a piece,” he said. “I’d rather people engage with the clothing first.”

The Gallery Dept. does not indulge pull requests from stylists or send its pieces to influencers, a practice Mr. Thomas explains with a trace of punk indignation.

“Kendall doesn’t get a discount,” he said. “We don’t seed. I don’t care who it is — we don’t cater to different markets.”

Wearing cutoff carpenter pants and a white T-shirt, each dusted in a fine rainbow splatter, Mr. Thomas looked every bit like an artist roused from his creative flow, complete with paint-stained hands and individually colored fingernails. Standing in a mauve-carpeted room, Mr. Thomas pointed out his latest ideas: pewter jewelry in eccentric shapes, like an earring in the shape of a zipper pull, made in collaboration with the Chrome Hearts offshoot, Lone Ones, and shorts cut from dead-stock military laundry bags — while explaining the origins of his own style.

Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times

“I liked my parent’s clothing growing up,” Mr. Thomas said. “As a teenager, I was able to fit into my dad’s leather jacket. The beat-up patina on it was perfect, and I realized that that was personal style. It was something you couldn’t go to a store and buy.”

Mr. Thomas, who turned 36 in September, never studied fashion or garment making, and he can’t work a sewing machine. But growing up as the son of immigrants from Venezuela and Trinidad, he watched as his parents subsisted on their raw artistic skills to create a life in Los Angeles. And he now uses those same talents as an artist and designer: sign-painting, tie-dying, screen printing. For a short time, his father, Stefan Gilbert, even ran a private women’s wear label.

Similarly, in his early 20s, Mr. Thomas worked at Ralph Lauren. As one of the few Black people in creative roles in a predominantly white company, he soon realized that the only way to survive in the fashion industry would have to be with a project of his own making.

“I was the ‘cool’ Black guy, but there was nowhere for me to go,” he said. “Best case would have been sourcing buttons for women’s outerwear or something.”

Gallery Dept.’s spontaneous inception came about in 2016 when Mr. Thomas sold a hand-sewn denim poncho off his own back to Johnny Depp’s stylist. At the time Mr. Thomas was focused on making beats and D.J.-ing, but after selling all of the pieces he’d designed for a small trunk show at the Chateau Marmont, he realized he’d discovered a new creative lane.

It had less to do with ponchos, which were dropped from subsequent collections, and more to do with old garments being remixed in the heat of artistic paroxysm, with as little second-guessing as possible. With the help of Jesse Jones, a veteran tailor, Mr. Thomas began churning out made-to-order pieces for customers who often were unaware of what, exactly, they had stumbled into.

“We were creating pieces while we were selling them,” he said.

Working with heavy vintage shirts, hoodies, trucker hats, bomber jackets, whatever was at hand, Mr. Thomas would frequently screen-print the brand’s logo, adding paint or other flourishes as the feeling struck.

Today that extends to long-sleeve tees, sweatpants and socks. At the time, he also began blowing out the silhouette of vintage Levi’s 501s and Carhartt work pants into a subtle flare, accented with patches and reinforced stitching, resulting in a streetwise update of the classic boot-cut jean.

Mr. Thomas christened this style of jeans the “LA Flare.” And where denim has so historically hewed to “his” and “her” categories, the LA Flare is the zeitgeist-y “they” of street wear denim. (The label labels its items as “unisex.”)

Credit…James Law
Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times
Credit…James Law

The jeans come with a luxury item’s price tag, with a basic version starting at $395. Custom tailoring and additional touches by Mr. Thomas, can push the price upward of $1,200. One early collaboration with Chrome Hearts, a pair of orange-dyed flares patched with that brand’s iconic gothic crosses, has gone for $5,000 on Grailed.

“There is nothing like Josue’s repurposed jeans,” said George Archer, a senior buyer at Mr Porter. “They are both a wearable piece and a work of art. No one else is doing what he’s doing.”

For Mr. Archer, who first noticed the Gallery Dept. logo popping on men in Tokyo in March, Mr. Thomas “interprets and creates” clothing as if it was an end in itself — and not a commodity to be monetized. (Nonetheless, Mr Porter hopes to monetize a collection of Gallery Dept. pieces via its e-commerce site later this year.)

“You can feel the warmth of Josue’s hands on each of the pieces,” said Motofumi Kogi, the creative director of the Japanese label United Arrows & Sons. An elder statesmen of Tokyo’s street wear scene, Mr. Kogi found the label on a trip to Los Angeles last year. It’s not only Mr. Thomas’s artistic touch that stands out to him but his vision for remaking a staid garment into something that Mr. Kogi believes has not been seen before.

“He took this staple of hip-hop culture and refreshed it,” he said, referring to Carhartt pants.

Getting the people who make that culture to buy in was another matter. “The first year we did the flare, in 2017, skinny jeans were in,” Mr. Thomas said. “Rappers would come into the shop and say they’d never wear a flare. Now, everyone is wearing it.”

On Instagram, fit pics by rappers like Rich the Kid, along with the aforementioned Migos, Quavo and Offset, Gallery Dept.’s flare has become a familiar silhouette, skinny jeans breaking loose below the knee, usually coiled up at the ankle around a pair of vintage Air Jordans.

Credit…Maggie Shannon for The New York Times

One fan of the jeans, Virgil Abloh, sees Mr. Thomas’s “edit” of the classic garment as the next chapter of its history.

“Their flare cut is the most important new cut of denim in the last decade — since the skinny jean,” Mr. Abloh said. A self-described Levi’s “obsessive” who owns more than 20 pairs of Gallery Dept. jeans, he walked into Mr. Thomas’s workshop one day after a routine stop at the Erewhon Market across the street.

“I thought: ‘This is amazing. Here’s some guys editing their own clothes in a shop,’” he said. “It reminded me of what I was doing when I started out, painting over logos, making hand-personalized clothes.”

Mr. Abloh considers Mr. Thomas’s work to be the fashion equivalent of “ready-made” art, and he offers Shayne Oliver of Hood by Air as a distant contemporary. He suggested that he and Mr. Thomas come from a lineage of Black designers that is still in the process of defining itself.

“He’s a perfect example of someone creating their own path from a community that hasn’t traditionally participated in fashion,” Mr. Abloh said. “I see Josue as making a new canon of his own, showcasing what Black design can do.”

Mr. Thomas didn’t argue with that. But he was also a little preoccupied with whatever was taking place at the tips of fingers to get lost in the thought. The future of his brand, after all, depends on his ability to stay in that moment.

“People want things that aren’t contrived,” he said, pulling at his own shirt to drive the point home. “This paint came from me working. I wanted to recreate this feeling. Once something is contrived, when you can see through it, it’s ruined. There’s only so much you want to explain.”

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An Almost-Lake House in Texas, Renovated for Work and Art – The New York Times



In 2015, when Dacia and Lanham Napier were touring Austin, Texas, with a real estate agent, they weren’t looking for a home — they were searching for office space in the tech-centric city for Mr. Napier, the chief executive of the investment firm BuildGroup and the former chief executive of Rackspace Technology.

The couple lived in San Antonio, about 80 miles south, but “I happened to mention to the real estate agent that Lanham’s dream has always been to have someplace on a lake,” said Ms. Napier, 49, a radiologist. “Well, she called me the next day.”

The agent wanted to show them a house in the Tarrytown neighborhood, about three miles from downtown Austin. It wasn’t exactly on a lake, but it was close, with a backyard that descended to Taylor Slough, an inlet of Lake Austin, which is part of the Colorado River.

Dacia and Lanham Napier bought a traditional-looking brick house in Austin and transformed it into a modernist home with room for lots of contemporary art.
Credit…Stacy Sodolak for The New York Times

Ms. Napier was skeptical, but they went to see it anyway. And it struck a chord. They liked that the low-slung brick house appeared to be a bungalow from the street, but descended to a second level buried in the hill. They also loved that it had water access and was a short drive from the airport and offices where Mr. Napier planned to work.

“For all the stuff that we do, it’s pretty darn convenient,” said Mr. Napier, 50. “And I’ll tell you what, it’s an awesome neighborhood to take a walk in.”

It didn’t bother them that the 3,600-square-foot, 1960s house had been renovated in a style that was more traditional than the modern design they preferred. They had done a major renovation of their house in San Antonio and knew they could recruit the same team — Tobin Smith Architect, Mark Ashby Design and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects — to transform their second home.

The Napiers bought the property for $3.3 million in June 2015. But rather than immediately tear out the leaded- and stained-glass windows, crown molding and fluted-column fireplace mantel, they decided to move in and get a feel for the space while working on renovation plans.

“It was probably a pretty good midcentury house when it was built,” said Tobin Smith, their architect. “But someone had Frenchified it, probably in the ’90s. We had our work cut out for us.”

Credit…Douglas Friedman

By the time the Napiers moved out to make way for the demolition crew two years later, they had decided to paint the brick exterior, add a pool and overhaul the interior, changing the four-bedroom, three-bathroom house into one with four reconfigured bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms and a study for Mr. Napier. The idea was to create plenty of space for visiting friends and family, including the couple’s 20-year-old son, Cade, who attends Yale University, and 17-year-old daughter, Avery, who goes to Phillips Exeter Academy.

Mr. Napier also planned to use the house for brainstorming with colleagues, so he wanted it to be multifunctional. “I think every entrepreneur deserves to have a conference room in their living room,” he said.

His one requirement was an enormous whiteboard in the dining room, which would double as his meeting space. His design team delivered one by creating a sliding panel on oversized stainless-steel wheels that is hidden in the wall and can be rolled out for work. “It’s invisible, until you yank on the handle,” Mr. Smith said. “And then out comes this mammoth Lanham-world dream.”

Ms. Napier took the lead on the rest. “I told them we need a funky, fabulous midcentury bungalow with a contemporary art feel,” she said.

Credit…Douglas Friedman

Christina Simon, the lead interior designer on the project at Mark Ashby Design, aimed to create that feeling with vintage furniture, dramatic materials like pyrite wall tile in the home bar and a custom silk rug in the primary bedroom, and by making smart use of Ms. Napier’s many collections, which include insect specimens, pepper mills and serious art.

“Dacia is very much a collector,” Ms. Simon said. “We knew that vintage would be part of the deal and had fun finding these unusual elements.”

A pair of deeply cushy, worn brown leather Roche Bobois chairs were an early purchase that helped set the relaxed tone, she said. They installed the chairs in the downstairs den, where they also built a Charlotte Perriand-inspired wall unit to hold many of Ms. Napier’s treasures.

“We call that shelving the natural history wall,” Ms. Simon said, “because she loves to collect elements like these tiny silver articulating bugs on stands.”

Credit…Douglas Friedman

With the help of Alexis Armstrong of Armstrong Art Consulting, Ms. Napier filled the house with works by artists like Damien Hirst, Ed Ruscha, Ellsworth Kelly, Shirazeh Houshiary and Sol LeWitt. A monumental sculpture by Tony Cragg in the living room is so heavy that Mr. Smith had to reinforce the floor.

After vacating the home for nearly two years’ of construction, and spending roughly $2 million, the Napiers moved back in July 2019. This year, Mr. Napier is even more thankful to have a home that doubles as a legitimate office.

“It turns out that it’s even better in a pandemic,” he said, because he has multiple inspiring spaces for work, room to pace while on the phone and a whiteboard like no other. “I think for all of us, as humans, physical surroundings matter.”

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.

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In the Return of Art Fairs, Smaller Is Better – The New York Times



Wearing a yellow face mask designed in Ethiopia, the gallerist Rakeb Sile greeted a trickle of visitors to her booth one recent morning at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in London. Addis Fine Art — the gallery of which she is a founder in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa — had on display a colorful cityscape, a portrait painted on fragments of used canvas and a gem-studded black cape worn in a recent performance-art piece outside Buckingham Palace.

“With the right precautions, we just have to keep things moving,” said Ms. Sile, who is of Ethiopian descent, referring to the pandemic. She said the gallery owed it to its staff and artists, and to the 1-54 fair, which was founded in London in 2013 and is now also held in New York and Marrakesh, Morocco.

“The narrative on Africa is always so flat, and very, very shallow,” she said. “Somewhere like this, you can come in and really discover things that you just never thought you would discover.”

Credit…Addis Fine Art

The pandemic has led most of the world’s fairs to cancel en masse and instead have online editions. These include Art Basel, in Hong Kong, Basel, Switzerland, and Miami Beach; FIAC, which was to have taken place in Paris this week; and the Frieze Art Fair in London, which usually coincides with 1-54.

Yet 1-54 and at least two other stalwarts, Art Paris and Viennacontemporary, decided to go ahead this fall.

The context could hardly have been tougher. The virus has caused severe restrictions on travel and crowds, two defining features of any international fair. According to a midyear art-market survey on the virus’s impact that was published by Art Basel and UBS Global, fair cancellations in the first half of 2020 have led to galleries’ generating only 16 percent of their sales at art fairs, down from 46 percent during the same period last year. Nine of 10 galleries predicted no second-half recovery in this sector of the business, and only a third forecast a sales increase at fairs next year.

Once Frieze went virtual, 1-54, which ran from Oct. 8 to 10, could have canceled. It was helped by its smallness and its location at Somerset House, a stately 18th-century building in central London with a warren of interconnected rooms that allowed one-way traffic flow and strict crowd control.

Though the fair, at capacity, drew only 3,000 visitors this year (down from 18,000 in 2019) and featured 30 galleries (down from 45), several booths sold out, including Ed Cross Fine Art, which featured ruglike textile works by the Welsh-Ghanaian artist Anya Paintsil. The fair itself broke even.

“In a world where people are more and more worried about large gatherings, about safety and about the prospect of getting sick, we have to think about more intimate formats, and ours happens to be one such format,” Touria El-Glaoui, the fair’s founding director, said after its end. “We’re already small, and already flexible, unlike a fair in a convention center that hosts more than 100 galleries.”

Credit…Addis Fine Art

Ms. El-Glaoui said she hoped to go ahead with the New York edition of 1-54 next May — and to hold it in the photographer Annie Leibovitz’s former studio, the Caldwell Factory, as had been planned for this year before its cancellation.

Discounting also helped make the fairs happen. Viennacontemporary, which offered half-price booths, ended up hosting 65 galleries in total, down from 110 last year. Art Paris gave a 15 percent discount to established galleries and 14 newer ones, and gave the latter the proceeds of its ticket sales, a total of 110,000 euros (about $129,000). A total of 112 galleries participated in the Paris fair this year, down from 150 in 2019.

Art Paris was the first fair to take the post-lockdown plunge and proceed as normal, occupying the domed turn-of-the-century Grand Palais from Sept. 10 to 13. This year’s edition drew about 57,000 visitors, down 10 percent from last year. It also had first-time exhibitors that included the high-profile gallery Perrotin and multiple six-digit sales, among them those of a drawing by Giacometti and two sculptures by César.

Art Paris was long perceived as a largely local art-world outlier. But “what was previously singled out as a weakness in my case — that the fair wasn’t international enough — turned out to be an advantage,” said Guillaume Piens, its director since 2012.

Credit…Mohammed Badra/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Purchases were mainly by French collectors, challenging the commonly held belief that France has few collectors and that we’d be nothing without American buyers,” he added. “Things have changed a lot.”

Mr. Piens said he was right to have resisted turning Art Paris into a clone of other large, global fairs, where visitors see “practically the same things,” regardless of where they go, and “it’s like driving down the same highways, with the same names and the same galleries all over.”

Johanna Chromik, artistic director of Viennacontemporary, also noted that local — meaning Austrian — collectors made that fair a success this year, accounting for half of sales, up from the usual one-third. The Vienna event, which ran from Sept. 24 to 27, also caters to Austria’s neighbors, especially the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary.

Credit…Kristina Kulakova

Putting on the fair was difficult, Ms. Chromik said — “you can imagine how many sleepless nights I had” — but she added that collectors were “highly motivated” and “really buying; we had solid to really good sales this year.” Many visitors had not been to a fair since the Armory Show in New York in March, so they were pleased “to see art for real, in three dimensions,” she said.

Collectors’ enthusiasm was confirmed by the UBS/Art Basel report. Despite the virus, 82 percent said they planned to attend exhibitions, art fairs and other events in the ensuing 12 months. More than half hoped to attend events both at home and abroad. And 59 percent of the high-net-worth respondents said that the virus had increased their thirst for collecting.


So fairs seem here to stay, the events’ directors said; there will just be fewer of them.

“I don’t believe in returning to how we lived before 2019,” Ms. Chromik said. “We learned from this year.”

She said some of the practices introduced at Viennacontemporary this year — like shared booths, of which there were about half a dozen — could well continue.

What the Covid-19 pandemic has made clear, said Mr. Piens of Art Paris, is that the last several years featured “too much foie gras and too much Champagne, resulting in a giant indigestion.”

Mr. Piens added, “We’re all on a diet now.”

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Epilepsy education centre in Abbotsford holds online art classes – Abbotsford News



The Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education in Abbotsford is hosting monthly virtual art classes for people across B.C. living with epilepsy.

The next class is scheduled for Oct. 22 on Facebook Live.

The aim is to improve communication and concentration, reduce feelings of isolation, and increase self-esteem and confidence.

The charity has received a $4,500 donation from the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation to support the organization as it continues to provide services to B.C.-based children, youth, individuals and families.

RELATED: B.C. epilepsy patient ends sit-in, awaits answers

The Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education was incorporated in 1998 as a not-for-profit organization.

Since then, it has pioneered landmark education programs that have been adapted provincially, nationally and internationally.

They provide direct support to families and individuals struggling with seizures; create children’s education and materials and comfort items; send children to summer camp; and promote research.

The centre is located at 32868 Ventura Ave. Visit for more information or to register for the next art class.

RELATED: Purple Day 2020: Epilepsy awareness heads online

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