2331 St. Claude Ave and Spain, New Orleans, LA 70113 • 504-710-4506 • Tues-Sat 11am-5pm • Directions
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2331 St. Claude Ave & Spain
New Orleans, LA 70117 504-710-4506
Media Kit : Events following Hurricane Katrina
Andy Antippas, owner of Barristers Gallery in New Orleans, had to offer a guy from the power company a six-pack of warm beer to get the juice turned back on in his gallery, but he didn't hesitate. He was determined to have an art opening on schedule and kick off the art season in a town that has always been known for its creative spirit and lively arts community. Sure enough, on Saturday, October 1st, he put up two big art shows and held an opening attended by over 100 people.
"I knew I'd have to shut down by curfew, but I stayed open until 8 pm and a lot of people in the local arts community showed up," Antippas said. "It was absolutely worth it. It's one thing for people in other parts of the country to hear about the Wal-Marts and the Home Depots reopening, but this is an arts city, so I felt it was important that people know the arts are alive too."
"I was going to do this in the dark if I had to. I thought it might be a purely quixotic and platonic gesture, but I'm glad that so many people showed up and appreciated it," Antippas said in a phone interview a few days after the opening. His 140-year-old home, located on the edge of the badly swamped Ninth Ward, has no power or potable water and two ancient trees are leaning against the roof, but he still opens his gallery daily to the public. As we spoke, two artists who he represents were coming and going. Friends and artists have been sleeping in the mezzanine loft at the back of the gallery at times lately. "Seeing Rene in his p.j.s in the morning is not something you want to see when you open the gallery," he said only half-seriously, and laughed.
Barristers Gallery, owned by Antippas, represents an eclectic group of artists. The two shows that opened at his gallery on October 1st feature the art of a local voodoo scholar and practitioner and a group show of art by people who have mental disabilities. Antippas, a former professor of English literature, is known in New Orleans as somewhat of a renegade and one of the most creative, cutting-edge gallerists around. "I've subjected myself to some unusual life experiences, which makes me more studious and knowledgeable than most," Antippas said. His huge gallery is full of some of the best African art, folk art, lowbrow art, outsider art, and contemporary art in New Orleans.
Even the location of the gallery is contrary to the conventional wisdom of the New Orleans art landscape: it's not in the popular museum/restaurant/gallery area called the Warehouse District just west of downtown, nor on the busy gallery row of Royal Street in the French Quarter, nor on trendy Magazine Street. Instead it's in a semi-abandoned industrial/commercial area west of the Superdome that can seem desolate and scary. Outside of the large, floor-to-ceiling windows is the wide Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, a thoroughfare that wasn't heavily used even before Hurricane Katrina emptied the town. Sometimes the only person you'd see in an hour would be someone riding by on a dilapidated biycle.
Yet the gallery has a roster of some of the most successful folk and underground artists in New Orleans, including Mike Fedor, John Greco, Sean Star Wars, Sallie Ann Glassman, Herbert Singleton, John Arceneaux, Elizabeth Fox, Ryan Burns, Rene Stout, Chris Fisher, Ray Ferdinand and Mrytle Damitz.
Usually October 1st is the beginning of a busy art season. "The first weekend in October is when all galleries in New Orleans have the Art For Art's Sake weekend to launch the season," Antippas said "But this year I'm hearing from other gallery owners that the season is dead. They're talking about how they're going to try to sell the art in other cities. One has already rented the gallery out to a construction company."
"I want them to stop this whining and get back here. If they don't come back now, they won't have a clue about what's going on. A massive clean-up has already happened. The city is coming back. I had over 100 people at the opening. People told me that they were so glad I was doing this."
Antippas and his fiance Tricia Moss returned from Texas, where they went to avoid Katrina, to live in their house full-time a week and a half before the art opening and just after Hurricane Rita temporarily closed the city for a second time this year. "The mosquitos are a nightmare. Each night we've had to cover ourselves completely with Off," Antippas said.
"The gallery had a large oval puddle on the floor because of a leak in the roof, but no flooding. I was going to have a big group show called The Spirit of Place for October, with a New Orleans theme and all local artists. But a lot of studios have flooded and work was damaged or destroyed."
Fortunately, Antippas already had art on hand for two shows. "The last thing I did before we left town as Katrina was approaching was to come to the gallery and move all the art for the new shows upstairs to the mezzanine in case there was four or five feet of water in the gallery."
Altered Perceptions II: Artists with Mental Illness is a juried group show featuring work by artists with mental disabilities, now in its second year. "All of the artists have a diagnosed mental illness," Antippas said. "All proceeds go to the artists. It's becoming known around the country. After Katrina hit, I was contacted by an organization in New York City called Hospital Audiences Incorporated that shows art by artists with mental disabilities. They offered to put on a benefit show in New York for me. I thanked them but said I was determined to do it here, as planned. Unasked, a Latino artist who works with an organization that helps artists with mental disabilities sent me some amazing paintings." Some of the artists in this show are Natalie Gaidry, Kenny Champagne, Gus Fink, and William A. Kelly.
The other show, new work by Sallie Ann Glassman, an aritst and spiritualist who has studied and practiced Voudon, is called Glimpses of the Invisible. Her work is moody and full of archetypal symbols. Antippas also included two brand-new storm-themed paintings that she did while she was in Houma, Louisiana, having evactuated during the storm. "One depicts the city with a dark, glowering sky," Antippas said.
Antippas and Moss delivered the previously printed show invitations by hand throughout the French Quarter during the days before the show. He spoke with Times Picayune arts writer Doug McCash. whose article about the state of the arts now in New Orleans appeared in the Living section of that paper on Friday, September 30th (the article can be found at NoLA.com), saying that, "Maybe we can get a Black Hawk to drop some from the sky."
As it turned out, the fears Antippas had that no one would show up were unfounded. Over 100 people attended the opening on Saturday including Don Marshall, head of the famous Jazz Fest and former head of Contemporary Arts Center; Press Kabakoff, a major developer in the city; Kathy Randall, one of the leading actress/performers in town; David and Courtney Sullivan, who do great video and computer art; and many more. "Usually we get mainly visual artists, but there were lots of people from the theater community here. All of the arts were represented."
Antiapps feels that the arts community in New Orleans will be back despite the storm. "Artists gravitate to a physical place, a city that captures their imagination. Musicians drift around on a spiritual basis; they're nomadic. But artists work from a sense of place, so they will tend to be back. The big challenge will be to rebuild."
"Many artists simply lost their work. Many studios were completely flooded. The issue is how much work they can salvage. We had planned to open last weekend with a Spirit of Place, a group show of local artists. I'm still planning to put that on, along with my Mao show called Mao Now, a collection of Chinese posters and communist kitsch social-realist art, in the coming months."
1724 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
read more at Get Underground
"In the shadowy, humid interior of Barrister's Gallery on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, owner Andy Antippas insisted that in his corner of the art world, Art for Art's Sake will go on, despite a lack of electricity, despite a drastically reduced population, despite everything."Art for Art's Sake will go on, despite a lack of electricity, despite a drastically reduced population, despite everything."
He realized, of course, that his daylight opening reception, from 11 a.m. until dusk, was a symbolic gesture.
"Everybody's got to understand how important it is to do this," he said. "We really don't expect anyone to come, but we're keeping the gears moving. Reopening the Winn Dixie, the Wal-Mart and the Home Depot is all fine, but that's not what New Orleans is all about. The artists need the galleries. They need to be reminded of what they do, what they are, that their lives have not been swallowed up."
Antippas and his fiancé Trisha Moss, who'd escaped the hurricane in Galveston and returned to New Orleans two weeks ago, planned to alter the times on the already-printed exhibit invitations, that they would then distribute by hand to gathering spots in the French Quarter.
"Maybe we can get a Black Hawk to drop some from the sky," he said.
The two-part exhibit features symbol-laden paintings by artist/spiritualist Sallie Ann Glassman and a group show of works by self-declared mentally-ill artists such as Gus Fink, Kenny Champagne and William A. Kelly. The luridness of much of Glassman's work and the inspired eccentricity of the other artists' works seems somehow to fit Antippas's ghostly opening reception gambit.
Asked if he expects the art community to bounce back from the catastrophe, Antippas hovered between pessimism and hope.
"I don't know about the future economy," he said. "I can only hope that new construction will need new art. I expect to see everybody (artists and art dealers) back because everybody who runs a gallery is doing it because they love it."
read full article at nola.com by Doug McCash Art Critic
'Yes, as you may have already guessed, Barrister's ain't your ordinary art gallery. Once inside, you begin to suspect that you'll never, ever see all of it, no matter how much time you spend wandering through the 8,790 square foot space. Andy arranges his gallery in a random-looking but secretly kinky-structured assemblage that makes sense only if you know the subject matter or have a good sense of humor. "
'When people understand what I've done with a collection or grouping, they often become good clients and friends,' he smiles. "The atmosphere of the gallery, and the focus of the exhibitions that Barrister's mounted, regularly caused mental and spiritual distress to the weaker souls who happened to wander into the space. One look at those shrunken heads and human and animal skulls, incredible African fetishes and other tribal artifacts, Marilyn Manson's paintings and drawings straight from the hands of serial killers, Voodoo veves, photographs of extreme body modifications, and assorted other retina-searing objects sent some scurrying out the door in fear of losing their immortal souls (or their lunch).
But the rest of us-those who thought we'd seen
it all at least
twice--couldn't wait to get back to New
Orleans--to eat at Emeril's and
to see what Barrister's was up to. Because we
understood that he wasn't
trying to shock or disgust, but was interested
in showing art that
provoked a reaction and demanded something from
its observers--a bit of
open-minded curiosity, a lot of internal
inventory, an ability to
really look at something without preconceived
ideas and try to
understand why the artist created it."